September 06, 2015

BERLIN (AP) Nemanja Bjelica made a difficult lay-up with less than a second remaining to lift Serbia to a 68-66 victory over Germany at the European basketball championship on Sunday.

In a later Group B match, newcomer Iceland came close to scoring its maiden victory but Italy avoided a huge upset by pulling away late in the game for a 71-64 victory.

Serbia improved to 2-0 in the tough Group B, while Germany fell to 1-1. Italy is 1-1 and Iceland 0-2.

Bjelica led Serbia with 12 points in a close game, with neither team ever leading by more than seven. Dirk Nowitzki had 15 for Germany but he was only 5-for-15 from the field. Tibor Pleiss also added 15 points for Germany, while Dennis Schroeder had 11, shooting 4-for-11, along with six assists and four turnovers.

In Group A, Poland edged Russia 82-79 and Israel beat Finland 79-66 to go 2-0, while Macedonia topped the Netherlands 78-71 in Group C and Slovenia beat Georgia 79-68. Belgium dismissed Estonia 84-55 in Group D, while Lithuania beat Latvia 68-49.

Poland is 2-0, Russia 0-2, the Netherlands and Macedonia both 1-1, Belgium is 1-1 and Estonia 0-2. Lithuania is 2-0, Slovenia 1-1, Latvia is 1-1 and Finland 0-2.

Nowitzki had the chance to tie the game but he made only one of two free throws to leave Serbia up by one and 1:14 on the clock. Nemanja Nedovic's drive gave Serbia a 3-point lead, only to see Heiko Schaffartzik nail a 3-pointer after Pleiss's miss and Germany's rebound.

With 3.7 seconds on the clock, Serbia called a timeout and devised the play for Bjelica. Milos Teodosic got the ball to Bjelica, who drove in past three Germans and put it in with an unorthodox shot.

''This was the most important game in the group,'' Bjelica said. ''We didn't really have time to prepare for this game.''

Serbia played late the night before, beating Spain 80-70.

''It was an incredible shot,'' Serbia's coach Sasa Djordjevic said of the winning basket. ''We tried to find him to take the shot and he did it.

''I knew this was going to be the toughest game in the group,'' Djordjevic added. ''We spent a lot of energy last night and this was the most important win.''

Serbia, silver medalist at last year's World Cup, made only four of 30 3-point attempts, but had 14 offensive rebounds in a total of 40.

''Half of those shots were forced, Germany played very aggressive defense. It might be a negative record. But still, we kept them to 66 points and I'll take that any time,'' Djordjevic said.

''It's bitter to lose in such a way,'' Germany's coach Chris Flemming said. ''We knew that we can hold our own against the big teams. We could have won it.''

Iceland led 62-59 with just over three minutes remaining. Marco Belinelli then made three free throws, Pietro Aradori converted a three-point play and made two free throws as Iceland failed to score on three consecutive possessions.

Alessandro Gentile's drive made it 69-62 with 1:03 left and Italy held on to rebound from the opening loss to Turkey.

Gentile had 21 points and Italy pulled down 13 more rebounds. Haukur Palsson led Iceland with 17 points.

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