Bayern to face Olimpia Milan in playoffs
FC Bayern's basketball players completed their fantastic journey through the EuroLeague regular season with a triumph at league leader FC Barcelona - and will thus meet fourth-placed favorites Olimpia Milan, who clearly defeated Efes Istanbul on Friday, in the playoffs of the top division. The 82-72 win at Barça was not only the second win in the second game against the star ensemble around homecomer Pau Gasol (nine points in debut), but also the first ever at the venerable Palau Blaugrana. With this next surprise win, head coach Andrea Trinchieri's FCBB moved up to fifth place with a seemingly unreal 21-13 record; in the event of a defeat, second-place ZSKA Moscow would have been the opponent in the best-of-five series.
The top scorer was center Jalen Reynolds with 26 points ahead of Wade Baldwin (18). While Barcelona rested its second top star Nikola Mirotic as well as Cory Higgins, the guests were missing injured Nick Weiler-Babb (foot) as well as Nihad Djedovic (rehabbing after knee surgery).
The playoffs this season will be played in the best-of-five rhythm "two-two-one": That means Bayern will first play twice at fourth-place Milan starting April 20-21, then at least once at the Audi Dome (before the series would go back to Milan for game five).
The Munich team will have around 24 hours to prepare for the next task after their return on Saturday afternoon: Sunday's BBL home game against the Lions from Braunschweig, starting at 18:00. The Top Four of the German Cup at the Audi Dome is next weekend (April 17/18) where the FCBB must play the Telekom Baskets Bonn (18:30) on Tuesday evening.
FC Barcelona - FC Bayern Basketball 72-82 (37-43)
Jalen Reynolds (26 Points), Wade Baldwin (18/6 Assists), Vladimir Lucic (14), Zan Mark Sisko (5/6 Assists), Diego Flaccadori (5), Leon Radosevic (5), Paul Zipser (3), James Gist (2), JaJuan Johnson (2), D.J. Seeley (2), Robin Amaize und David Krämer.
Leo Westermann und Leandro Bolmaro (jeweils 12 Points)
Christos Christodoulou, Damir Javor, Tomasz Trawicki
Andrea Trinchieri: "We are very happy. Of course Barça was missing some players, we were also missing a player. But it was important for us to end the regular season with 21 wins. If someone had asked me in September about the EuroLeague season, I would never have expected something like this. We wanted to be in the best possible position for the playoffs, we worked hard for that and we really wanted to win. In the end, we deserved to win the game thanks to a very solid defense and great plays on offense especially from Reynolds and Baldwin. But without the important things from the others, however, it would not be possible at all to get 21 wins, like today for example from Flaccadori, who did not play the last EuroLeague games; or without the sacrifice of Lucic, not possible. So it was again a victory of the team. I'm very proud of this team, how they came together this season."
Jalen Reynolds: "I just tried to do my best today, but this was a team win without question. In our own way, we focused on keeping the performance up and staying focused. My personal performance is only marginally important, I'm a team player and I want to contribute everything to continue our mission."
Vladimir Lucic: "We came here to compete, even though Barcelona did not use some players. We still have some goals this season and we want to perform with a good mentality to be ready for every game. First in the German Cup competition and then in the playoffs. To play here in Barcelona at the end of the regular season and get the second win against them is a great success for us."Game recap:
Wade Baldwin, D.J. Seeley, Vladimir Lucic, James Gist and Leon Radosevic made up the starting five. The Munich team was not particularly impressed by the spectacular return of legend Pau Gasol - his first EuroLeague game after 20 years in the NBA - and took the fight to Barcelona 11-4. Missed shots brought the Spaniards closer, but Baldwin countered with seven points in a row (15-13/5th). Reynolds' substitution paid off immediately - his physicality brought six points and a clearer lead (24-17/9th). This lead held after the first quarter - 29-22.
FCBB got a little out of rhythm, but Lucic-Power breathed life back into the game (33-26/13th). Reynolds picked up where he left off in quarter one, scoring with impressive efficiency - 37-28 (14th). Munich held the lead as Lucic, Reynolds and Baldwin scored reliably (43-34/17th). Bayern had problems with defensive rebounding, but led 43-37 at halftime.
The Catalans increased pressure and were successful - initiated by Nick Calathes - especially near the basket and the lead melted away (47-45/24th). Reynolds continued to score at a high percentage and poured in four more points (51-45/26th). The FCBB played hard and some good defense and nice finishes maintained the lead. After the third quarter, the Munich team was 60-55 ahead.
Coach Trinchieri shook his head as his team seemed to squander the lead - but Lucic sank the jump shot to make it 62-57 (32nd). Baldwin was now irritated, which is often not a good sign for the opponent and he pounded home a monster dunk. Bayern streaked to a 8-0 run and led by double digits (68-57/34th). In a flash, the hosts countered and cut the lead to 70-64 (35th). A Zipser three-pointer, his first in the game, came at the right time (73-64/36th). There was no sign of fatigue, they were much too focused (and incidentally also aware of the updated rankings). Reynolds hammered the ball through the Spanish basket for a 79-67 score with less than two minutes left to play. FCBB coolly and confidently brought home the victory.
TO THE SCHEDULE
Photo credit: Molina