Created on 02-04-2021 at 09:07 AM
FC Bayern München's basketball team has done it: Head coach Andrea Trinchieri's team defeated Lithuania's stalwart Zalgiris Kaunas 71-70 in a dramatic thriller on Thursday night and became the first German team ever to qualify early for the EuroLeague playoffs due to the defeat of Baskonia. For the Bavarians it was their 20th victory, also a record.
In an energy-sapping duel the finish turned into a battle of nerves: 2.4 seconds before the end, Vladimir Lucic was fouled while shooting and down 70-69. He converted both attempts from the line to take the lead. The Serb also blocked Kaunas' last shot with the help of Leon Radosevic which was followed immediately by a celebration from Bayern.
The playoffs of the Euroleague (best-of-five) start only two days after the Top Four for the German Cup in the Audi Dome. The opponent of the FCBB from 18/19 April will only be decided after the 34th and final game next Friday at standings leader FC Barcelona. Bayern currently occupies sixth place.
In the BBL, the next game is on Saturday away in Giessen and next Tuesday against Bayreuth.
Nick Weiler-Babb 11, Wade Baldwin 8, David Krämer, D.J. Seeley 5, Jalen Reynolds 12, Vladimir Lucic 13/6 Rebounds, Diego Flaccadori, Paul Zipser 2, James Gist 8, JaJuan Johnson 3, Zan Mark Sisko 3/6 Assists, Leon Radosevic 6/2three.
Top scorer Kaunas:
Thomas Walkup (16 Points)
Ilija Belosevic, Saso Petek, Carlos Carte
Points per quarter Bayern - Kaunas: 21-22, 16-14, 20-18, 14-16
Stats: Two-point shooting: 48% (FCBB) // 47% (Kaunas); Three-point shooting: 38% // 52%; Free-throw shooting: 91% // 77%; Rebounds: 26 // 32; Assists: 17 // 18; Turnovers: 12 // 19.
Andrea Trinchieri: "I am very happy, first of all of course for my players who made history for German basketball and also for FC Bayern Basketball. My team was ready to fight today. We didn't have a great game. But the game had its origin maybe 15 days ago. We have been pursuing a dream since the first game against Milan, when we lost in overtime. Because we understood then: We can do something. But in the last 15 days we've just felt how close we are - but also never close enough. You think you're going ahead, but the distance remains the same. The last few games have been very difficult. Zalgiris played very well today because they had no pressure. Of course, our players had the thought: what if we don't make it. In the meantime it looked like in winter when it's cold and you have hot chocolate in your hands - then the chocolate gets thicker and thicker and thicker. You can't move your spoon in it anymore.
That's what the last quarter was like. I was prepared for that. When you play with so much pressure and the other team has no pressure, everything becomes harder. That was our 16th game in 34 days. I don't know how we did it - I really don't know. We never trained, we have injured players, we traveled all over Europe. This group of players has done something incredible. At the beginning, we were ranked 16th or 17th in the EuroLeague. I'm proud. Proud because we found a way for this group of players to play together. We may not have shined, we had to win almost every game after being behind. We often had the noose around our necks, but we never died. That may be our fate. Let's enjoy the way we are. I don't want to trade any of my players. We won against Efes, Barcelona, twice against Maccabi, at Fenerbahce in Istanbul and the regular season is getting shorter and shorter. And you think to yourself: we've achieved something - but it's never enough. With 19 wins you don't reach the playoffs, that's the first time in the history of the EuroLeague. If someone had asked us if we would be happy with 19 or 18 wins, we would have signed the contract with our own blood before the season.
We are not in good physical shape, we are not playing well right now, but this is the 16th game in 34 days. This is not human. I am very, very proud that my team found a way without being in shape, without playing well, without hitting shots, without doing what we can do in many games. It's not easy to play under that pressure, but we did it. We are the first team to do it. I hope this is not a flash in the pan. I hope we can do it every year. I think this is a great place for German basketball. It's a great night for FC Bayern. We had to put a team together during the Covid pandemic, which was not easy. But every player came here to give their best. Wade Baldwin came from Olympiakos with a smaller role, Jalen Reynolds came from Maccabi with 13 minutes of playing time, Vladimir Lucic is playing the best season of his career - he is our leader. Everyone is trying to go over their limit. Nick-Weiler Babb didn't play a EuroLeague game in his life before the season, Zan Mark Sisko wasn't in the rotation last year. We're happy who we are. I don't want to change anything. We are far from perfect. We're a long way from being normal. But you need something like this to chase a dream."
Herbert Hainer, President FC Bayern: "I congratulate our team, our coach and just everyone else who helped. To have made it to the EuroLeague playoffs as the first German team is a terrific success. The entire FC Bayern is insanely proud of this historic achievement."
Vladimir Lucic: "It is a great moment. We were dreaming about this since the day we started in early August, so it is a big accomplishment for everybody - for the team, for the organization, being part of the first German team who ever reached the EuroLeague Playoffs. But a lot of really important games are yet to come and we need to be ready for the next steps. It was not easy, especially after the loss against Fenerbahce. I think we obviously had a lack of energy today, but we showed character, as many times this year, in the end. First of all, James [Gist] with the rebounds, really gave us energy to find the way to finish this game."
Nick Weiler-Babb: "It has been a long season. To turn around the program with the year that we had, the transition this team has made from the start has been good. Everybody has been locked in, everybody has been pushing to try to get this goal and I am so happy for the guys today. Lucic came up big tonight and everybody has been playing well all season. We stuck together, coaches, front office, team. it is an exciting time. We like giving our fans a little heart attack sometimes, but we are a greedy team and we are going to fight hard, and we are going to compete, and that has been our M.O. from the start - a lot of those situations come down to the end. Winning close games like this, it is something special and it makes us tough to beat."
Paul Zipser: "Of course it had to end like this again. We were ahead by, I don't know how many points. I felt a lot today before the game, during the game. I felt we were going to finish it off today. It didn't feel like it usually does every game. Awesome! That's all I can say right now. Right now I need a little bit. But later or tomorrow I'll understand. Wild, a wild thing! This is just a special team, this is just a special team!"
Marko Pesic, General Manager FCBB: "Before the season, I would have said to this: you are crazy! But at that point, we just didn't know this team yet. I was just worried today that this group of people with the players, coaches, physios and everyone else around the team might not make it in an unfortunate way. But somehow we found a way to win the game again and Efes won after overtime at Baskonia. We are all immensely proud of what this team and everyone involved have achieved - and all without our great fans. We probably have the best home record, so you can imagine what would be going on here if there were 7,000 more in the hall. It's a downer, but I hope the fans enjoyed it at home and are celebrating a little bit like we are. We're not done yet and anything is always possible in the playoffs, but this is already a historic success for our club."
Bayern started with Wade Baldwin, Nick Weiler-Babb (Trinchieri: "He played with one leg"), who was ready shortly before the game, Vladimir Lucic, Paul Zipser and Jalen Reynolds in the historic EuroLeague game against Kaunas. Still dependent on the parallel game in Vitoria, the FCBB - led by center Reynolds - initially played free (11-8/5th). However, the guest team, which had dropped out of the playoff race despite a win against Berlin last game, also scored at a high percentage at the beginning and proved to be an equal opponent despite their lack something to play for. 22-21 for the Lithuanians.
Neither team was able to pull away, the lead changed almost constantly until a successful three-point shot by Lucic (26-24/14th). The hosts were able to extend their lead to a maximum of five points after a Radosevic three-pointer and free throws from Baldwin (35-33/18th). With a 6-0 run, the guests even turned the game around again but Gist from the free throw line gave Bayern the narrow 37-36 lead at the break.
At the break, it was clear that a win would be enough for Bayern to secure a place in the playoffs - the players in the dressing room knew this, of course. Kaunas came out of the dressing room better, but could never pull ahead by more than four points (50-46/27th). This lead was defended by the guests (52% three-pointers) until 100 seconds before the final quarter. Then, with a 9-2 run and Radosevic's second three-pointer, Munich gained the 57-54 advantage before the final ten minutes.
The fourth quarter started with weak offense on both sides, but this played into Bayern's cards. They allowed only two points in the first five minutes of the final quarter, but still could only extend the lead to seven points (63-56/35th) - which is why a dramatic final phase developed. Nigel Hayes gave Zalgiris the lead again two and a half minutes before the end (66-65/38th). The now noticeably nervous Bayern found it difficult to respond as Kaunas further extended the lead with two free throws. After a Lucic miss, veteran Gist made a strong play on the offensive boards and brought Bayern back to within one point (68-67/39th). Again it was Hayes who hurt Bayern with two points in the closing stages - again Gist was on hand, also defensively. Down by one point with 24 seconds left to play, FCBB had what was supposed to be the last possession. Baldwin took responsibility, ran the clock down to three seconds and nearly lost the ball. But a review ultimately decided: Bayern ball! Sisko's throw-in found Lucic, who immediately went up and was fouled on the two-on-one attempt. The co-captain safely converted Munich's last two shots from the line with just over two seconds left. Kaunas got the ball in Bayern's half after a timeout, the ball came to Joffrey Lauvergne, who was tightly covered by Radosevic and still took a desperation shot- but Lucic was on the spot, blocked the shot and caused exuberant cheers.
TO THE SCHEDULE