Bayern starts its first EuroLeague playoffs at favorite Milan

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It will be the 103rd game for Bayern Basketball in the EuroLeague and the most important ever: In their sixth year, the Munich team will be represented in the playoffs of the European elite class of their sport. For the first time ever, a German team is in the EuroLeague playoffs - starting Tuesday evening, Armani Olimpia Milan will be the Munich team's opponent in the best-of-five series. As the fourth-place team in the regular season, Milan has home-court rights and will play at home for the first two games and then also in a possible fifth game against FCBB, which finished in fifth place with a 21-13 record. Game two is also at Milan's Mediolanum Forum on Thursday, then next Wednesday the series (4/28) comes to Munich for the first time at the Audi Dome for head coach Andrea Trinchieri's surprise team.


Every game will kick off at 20:45 with MagantaSport broadcasting live as always. 

The opponent
Olimpia Milan, Italy's record champion with 28 titles, is considered one of the top favorites for the title given its deep lineup. The traditional club, which was also lavishly funded by fashion czar Georgio Armani in Corona times, has won the top European competition three times, in 1966, 1987 and 1988. The last international trophy was the Korac Cup in 1993. After a seven-year break, Olimpia has once again reached the playoffs, the minimum goal considering the enormous financial efforts made over the past two years. The clear ambition, however, is to return to the Final Four after 29 years.

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The staff
The Spanish world champion and two-time EuoLeague champion Sergio Rodriguez (with Real Madrid and ZSKA Moscow) was probably the most notable acquisition in the summer of 2019, along with coach Ettore Messina (four EuroLeague titles). Center Kyle Hines (two EL titles each with Olympiakos and ZSKA) came with just as much experience as Italian Luigi Datome, who won the European crown with Fenerbahce in 2017. They were joined by other top EuroLeague players such as Michael Roll (Maccabi), Zach LeDay (Olympiakos), the 2014 FCBB champion guard Malcolm Delaney (FC Barcelona), Shavon Shields (Baskonia) and, after the start of the season, Kevin Punter (Red Star), who is now the top scorer with 15 points per game.

The numbers
In addition to US guard Punter, Shields (13.5 ppg) and Delaney (10.8) also score in double figures in a very deep and balanced squad, followed by Rodriguez (9.6; 4.7 apg), Hines (8.1; 4.3 rpg) and Datome (7.6). The biggest quality besides a lot of individual skill is experience.Olimpia loses the ball less often than any other team (only 10.9 turnovers; FCBB 12.8), and the three-point percentage of 41.6 percent is the second best of all 18 teams.

Even more numbers
Zen-like calm against this cumulative experience would be tantamount to the next Munich feat: With the exception of James Gist (with Panathinaikos), Bayern players are all playoff rookies, with a combined total of 1169 EuroLeague games. At Milan (1983), four-time champion Kyle Hines alone has played 314 times in the top league.

The defensively strong Bayern must try to match their numbers from the regular season in order to have success: The numbers allowed to the opponents in twos (53.7%, 4th) and threes (34.7%, 2nd) testify to the strength of the defense. The 14.2 forced turnovers are also a strong aver and the average of 6.1 steals is the third best in the league. In the first matchup, the season opener, this succeeded very well and they lost only 81-79 in overtime and they had a shot to win seconds before the end of regulation time. The second game, however, was "decided after three minutes," recalls coach Trinchieri, finishing 75-51 in a Milan blowout.

The form
The last-minute postponement of the Top Four for the Cup meant that Trinchieri was able to fit a practice session into the schedule on Sunday in addition to the final training session on Monday evening in Milan. Both teams will probably start in the best possible form though Bayern has had to do without captain Nihad Djedovic (knee) for weeks. How resilient the recently injured Nick Weiler-Babb (foot) and James Gist (shoulder) will be remains to be seen.

Olimpia, on the other hand, comes into the game with a recent win in the top game of Serie A against rivals Virtus Bologna. In the 94-84 win in Milan on Saturday night, Shields was outstanding (35, 7/9 threes), LeDay (21/8 rebounds) and Delaney (11) were the top scorers for the league leader.                                  




"Es ist für uns eine große Ehre, auf dieser Bühne zu sein."

Andrea Trinchieri

Milan native Andrea Trinchieri, who once started in Olimpia's youth system and later served as co-coach, said after arriving in his hometown, "This next stop on our journey is a very nice one, because it's the playoffs in the EuroLeague. It is a great honor for us to be on this stage. Milan's team has been put together well without question and is meant to reach the Final Four. This team has a lot of experience and quality. For us, it will be about getting into this series first. (...) It's great to play the EuroLeague playoffs with this group of guys we have. We will do the best we can to enjoy this challenge. We are total underdogs given the name of the other team. They have players with EuroLeague rings, they just have everything. We should embrace this challenge and enjoy every single moment. Even though one hundred percent hard moments will come, I'm sure of that. But we want to fight and give our best."      

Co-captain Vladimir Lucic says, "This Milan team was built to at least be in the Final Four. They have a lot of experienced players, with a lot of talent at really every position, so that's a big task for us. Their experienced guys have been through so many games like this, in the playoffs and in Final Fours with some title wins - for us, only James (Gist) has been in the playoffs. So we lack experience in comparison, but we have other qualities. We've won a lot of close games at the end, building our confidence and character. We will not be afraid in dangerous moments and we will stay calm."

National player Paul Zipser: "We had a very close first matchup at the beginning this season, which we should have won, and then probably our worst game of the season in Milan, which had a lot to do with how we played. Of course, Milan is a very strong opponent, they have upgraded a lot. But every team in the playoffs brings a lot of quality. We are looking forward to the duel."

And General Manager Marko Pesic: "For us, the EuroLeague playoffs are new territory, where except for one person, namely James Gist, the players, our coach and we as a club have never been before. But the anticipation throughout the club is huge. We're going up against an opponent who is one of the best in Europe. In terms of the quality of the squad, we might not be in the top 8, but in terms of character, we're in the top 3."


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