Axel Schmidt
September 05, 2015

BERLIN (AP) Defending champion France needed overtime to overcome Finland 97-87 as the opening day of the European Basketball Championships produced tight games and some surprises on Saturday.

Lithuania, runner-up to France two years ago, struggled to edge Ukraine, the youngest team in the tournament, 69-68.

Turkey surprised Italy 89-87 despite blowing a 16-point lead, and 33 points from Danilo Gallinari. Center Semih Erden scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to secure Turkey's win in Group B.

Nemanja Bjelica scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Serbia past Spain 80-70 in the featured match.

Sasu Salin nailed a 3-pointer to tie the game for Finland, and Tony Parker missed a jumper as the Group A game went into overtime at 81-81.

But France put it away in the extra period as Parker finished with 23 points. American-born Jamar Wilson led Finland with 21 points.

Jonas Valanciunas had 19 points and 11 rebounds, Paulius Jankunas added 22 points and Jonas Maciulis nailed two free throws with 1:52 left to secure Lithuania's victory over Ukraine, which made the quarterfinals two years ago but came without the bulk of that team.

Also, Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Schroeder scored 15 points each to lead host Germany to a surprisingly close 71-65 victory over Iceland.

Nemanja Nedovic didn't miss a shot in scoring 14 points and pacing a key run that got Serbia back into the game.

''It may have been the best game of his career,'' Serbia coach Aleksandar Djordjevic said of Bjelica.

Serbia, the silver medalist at last year's World Cup, scored the first five points and kept Spain scoreless until Rudy Fernandez's three-point play with 4:58 left in the first quarter. But Spain quickly put together a 12-0 run and had a 10-point lead after the first quarter.

Nedovic then came off the bench to score 10 straight points, including two consecutive 3-pointers, as Serbia closed the gap to two at the end of the first half.

Nedovic and Zoran Erceg scored 3-pointers, and Bjelica made a jumper as Serbia opened a 60-49 lead in the third.

In the last quarter, Pau Gasol singlehandedly brought Spain within one with less than two minutes left. But Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic nailed 3-pointers to protect Serbia's first win over Spain in five years.

After a quiet game in the first half apart from four blocks, Gasol scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. Nikola Mirotic added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

''Nedovic turned the game around,'' Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said. ''We came back but then those two 3-pointers (by Bjelica and Bogdanovic) finished us off.''

Spain was a two-time champion before France won the title two years ago, when Spain took the bronze medal.

Iceland outscored Germany 22-12 in the final quarter as Jon Steffansson topped all scorers with 23 points for the team considered an outsider in the tough Group B.

Poland beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 68-64 in Group A in Montpellier, France; the Netherlands stunned Georgia 73-72 in Group C in Zagreb, Croatia; and the Czech Republic routed Estonia 80-57 in Group D in Riga, Latvia.

Robin Smeulders sank a jumper with 18 seconds remaining for the Dutch to win their first Eurobasket match since 1989. Charlon Kloof led all scorers with 22 points.

Omri Casspi scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds as Israel rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Russia 76-73 in Group A.

Greece beat Macedonia 85-65 in Group C, while Latvia dismissed Belgium 78-67 in Group D.

Also in Zagreb, Croatia beat Slovenia 80-73.

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