Munich Move On
Audi Dome, Munich – After last year’s disappointing first round loss in the playoffs, Bayern Basketball swept past ALBA Berlin this time around to qualify for the first time ever for the BEKO Basketball Bundesliga playoff semifinals.
Tyrese Rice scored 20 points while big men Chevon Troutman and Jared Homan both added 15 points and 7 rebounds as Bayern built a big enough lead and would hold off a late Berlin blitz to win the game 89-83 and sweep the best-of-five series 3-0. Munich will now await the winner of the Brose Baskets-Phoenix Hagen series.
Steffen Hamann sparked the Bayern offense once again in the opening quarter, scoring 5 points, creating fast breaks with two steals and pressuring the ALBA frontcourt. Homan started and then Rice finished an 11-0 run that gave the home side at 20-7 lead. Hamann finished the quarter with a steal and a dunk and a 25-13 lead.
From that point, the two teams were even but for Berlin not good, as they continued to trail. Berlin pushed back to trail 29-21, but Yotam Halperin’s three-pointer sparked Troutman, Rice and Homan to put together a run for a 16-point halftime lead at 44-28. Bayern would extend the lead to 20 points at the beginning of the third quarter and all signs pointed to another easy home win at the Audi Dome.
But the 14th consecutive home win would not finish as easily as Munich hoped. Heiko Schaffartzik hit two consecutive treys during a 14-2 run to cut the Bayern lead down to 50-42. Once again, Rice answered with a three-pointer and a bucket and Brandon Thomas also added a trey to counter with a 11-3 run to go into the final 10 minutes up 61-45.
Berlin did not win four games in the Euroleague Top 16 for no reason. Despite key injuries going into this series, ALBA is experienced and deep. Derrick Byars, Yassin Idbihi and Schaffartzik kept their team close, until a 10-0 run ignited by a trey from ex-Bayern guard Je’Kel Foster, DaShaun Wood’s three-pointer made it 78-73 with 50 seconds left.
The impossible had now become possible. Bayern had shown during the regular season cracks in their armor at crunch time, losing late leads on the road. And coming into the fourth quarter, Svetislav Pešić’s men were only 10-for-22 from the free-throw line. However, this game was at home and within the friendly confines, Munich hit the next eight free-throws as Berlin intentionally fouled the rest of the way.
Wood’s three-pointer and bucket made it 86-83 with five seconds left. Rice on the line, he finally missed a free-throw but calmly hit the second. Woods drive to the hoop was cut short by a Troutman steal and an outlet pass to Halperin who layed it in at the buzzer for the final score.
“It’s the playoffs, where everyone gives their all,” Pešić said after the game, acknowledging Berlin’s comeback. “ALBA showed their character till the end, but so did (we).”
“I am proud of my team, that they didn’t stop playing,” added Berlin head coach Sasa Obradovic. “We paid an expensive price (with our long season) with injuries and missing our players at key moments. We won four games in the Euroleague, we won the league cup – it was not a negative season.”
“At the end, we did everything that was in our power, we showed everyone that we don’t want to lose,” added Schaffartzik who led Berlin with 17 points. “And we almost got away with a miracle.”
ALBA fell short and Bayern were able to exact some measure of revenge, losing to ALBA in the Top Four for the league cup. And they displayed some intestinal fortitude at crunch time.
“In this series we kept our cool, we stayed together even when they were hitting their crazy threes at the end,” noted Rice, Munich’s leading scorer in the playoffs so far with 18.6 ppg. “We took care of the ball, made our free throws and finished off the games. We used to get antsy, get a bad shot and make a turnover instead of staying in attack mode.”
Hamann has been setting the tone in the first 10 minutes of both Games 1 and 3 and that’s been the difference. “My mission was to take Heiko and Wood out of this series. We have a good tag team with Tyrese coming in and what he’s capable of doing,” said the team captain. “I hope I could help the team, it’s about everyone doing their part for the team’s success and chemistry.”
Munich will have an eye on the TV Wednesday, as Hagen host Bamberg in Game 4 of their series. Bamberg look to clinch the series with a win, while Hagen hope to force a deciding Game 5 back at Stechert Arena, where they lost 104-94 Sunday night. The Bayern faithful unfurled a banner at the end of the game, stating “We are coming Hagen” (smiley face) obviously hoping for the three-time defending champs Baskets to lose.
Do the Bayern players prefer who they play next?
“We’ve won against both teams on their floors and played them tough,” answered Rice when asked who he’d prefer playing. “We are going to be prepared for whoever we get.”
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