Big matchup in Lithuania

Bayern faces the Three Kings of Zalgris Kaunas

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Almost a year ago to the day, Bayern suffered one of the worst home losses in its EuroLeague history - which now spans five and a half seasons. They lost 98-73 to Zalgiris Kaunas in the then completely sold-out "Music meets Basketball, Vol. 4". On the day before Christmas Eve, there will be another clash with the powerhouse club of the basketball nation of Lithuania, but this time on the road. The matchup in the Zalgirio Arena, which holds a good 15,000 spectators but is closed to fans, will take place on Wednesday evening with tip-off at 18:00 and will be broadcast by MagentaSport.

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Bayern is surely ready for a tough game even if they won three of the five duels against Zalgiris so far.  Especially since Kaunas is back on track after an initial 6-1 start and then six defeats in a row. The last three games at Panathinaikos and against Baskonia as well as Fenerbahce were all wins including a blowout of the former Turkish champions 99-62. Thus, the team of the new Austrian coach Martin Schiller (formerly also assistant coach of the DBB selection) is currently back in the playoff push in eighth place with an 8-7 record.

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The Munich team, after their tenth win of the season against Baskonia has the same record as Real Madrid (10-5) and now play their ninth of eleven December games. The end of the year follows on December 30 (19:30) with the EuroLeague highlight in the Audi Dome against Barcelona. Before that they have anothe gigantic matchup in the BBL against Bamberg (27.12.; 20:30).

"We already need a big game in Kaunas".
"Playing against Zalgiris is probably the toughest task in the EuroLeague right now," head coach Andrea Trinchieri judged in light of Kaunas' recent streak. "They shoot great from three, they just play with great quality. For us, it's also the eighth game in about 15 days. But we need a very good, smart performance there, because the way they execute their systems is one of the best in the EuroLeague for me. To sum up: We need a big game in Kaunas."

"Especially in Kaunas, it's always a question of who brings more fight and energy," added national player Paul Zipser, "also, it's going to be important not to give them any open shots, let alone open threes. Teams from Lithuania like to shoot threes and they also shoot them very well, and that's especially true for Kaunas."

Energy will again be the big issue in Kaunas, which has averaged nearly 40 rebounds in its recent three victories and allowed just 25. Second chances for the hosts are to be avoided at all costs, as Lithuania's record champion (21 titles in a row since 1994!) intends to use extra passes to put its distance shooters in position. With 44.4 percent from beyond the arc, Zalgiris' three-point ratio is clearly the best in the League and clearly ahead of the two first-placed top teams Barcelona (40.5 %) and ZSKA Moscow (39.1/FCBB: 37.3).

For their part, however, Bayern are the fifth-best rebounding team (33.6 rpg); in the battle on the boards, the French center Joffrey Lauvergne (5.2 rpg, 10.1 ppg), US forward Nigel Hayes (4.7 rpg, 9.2 ppg) and former Bamberg player Augustine Rubit (3.7 rpg, 8.9 ppg) stand in their way. Top scorer is former Alba guard Marius Grigonis who averages 14.7 points - the Lithuanian is the third best three-point shooter in the EuroLeague with a 56.3 percent mark. Thomas Walkup also has BBL experience (Ludwigsburg) and a supporting role at 6.5 points and proud five assists per game. Experienced internationals Lukas Lekavicius (6.9 ppg) and Rokas Jokubaitis (8.6 ppg) help lead the strong domestic faction.

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