"The best team in the EuroLeague"

Bayern travels to number one FC Barcelona with Pau Gasol

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The journey began at the beginning of October with an unfortunate loss in over time against Milan - six months later, "the journey is not over yet," as club boss Herbert Hainer said  after the Bayern basketball team's playoff entry. Munich will end the regular season of the European top division this week with the 34th and final gameday before the knockout round begins shortly after the Top Four for the German Cup (April 20/21). The conclusion of the regular season is a tough one, however, as head coach Andrea Trinchieri's team plays host to FC Barcelona, the league leader, on Friday evening at 21:00

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Bayern currently occupy sixth place, and depending on the outcome of the final games, anything from fourth to eighth is possible in the final standings. The playoffs this season will be played in a best-of-five "two-two-one" rhythm: That is, the teams ranked one through four start with two home games, then the series goes to the lower-ranked team for a maximum of two games; in a possible deciding game, the higher-ranked team again has the home advantage. In view of the two catch-up games in the coming week of eigtth-place St. Petersburg (12.4.) and the second ZSKA Moscow (14.4., both against Panathinaikos) it is quite possible that Bayern will still not know their playoff opponent on Friday evening.       

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Since last week, the star ensemble around coach Sarunas Jasicevicius and NBA returnee Nikola Mirotic is in first place. And it would not be surprising if Barça's other top star and homecomer were to make his debut on Friday night: Pau Gasol, who returned to his hometown club in February after two decades in the world's best league with 1226 appearances there with an average of 17 points per game and two NBA titles (2009 and 2010) with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"We're playing against the best team in the entire EuroLeague," Bayern coach Trinchieri said, "they deserve to be first going into the playoffs. Because they are great on offense and the best team on defense. And now they also have Pau Gasol, I don't have to say more about this opponent."

 

Gasol at his performance in Barcelona at the end of March cMolina

Even without Gasol, the 40-year-old center, Bayern would face a tough hurdle. The Catalans lost only three games in the second half, led by forward Mirotic (16.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg), the March EuroLeague MVP of the Month, and center Brandon Davies (11.7). Playmaker Nick Calathes (7.7 ppg) is again among the best assist providers in the competition with seven assists per game - next to Efes, the favorite has without question the deepest squad. However, in the first matchup when Mirotic was missing and the FCBB had one of its best performances of the season (90-77) and inflicted one of only nine defeats on Barcelona. And that was against the most effective defense in the league: Jasicevicius' Barcelona only allows an average of 73.3 points from the opponent (FCBB: 77.4), the best of all 18 teams.

FCBB forward Vladimir Lucic says: "They secured first place early and are one of the best teams this year, it will be a huge challenge. They have a great coach and a lot of experience. But we love to have a game like this, we train for it every day."   

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