The Next Level
Audi Dome, Munich – FC Bayern Basketball opened up their holiday present a night earlier when Unicaja Malaga defeated Montepaschi Siena, clinching a Top 16 spot for the Euroleague newcomers from Bavaria. However Friday night the team unwrapped a much better present that removed the frustration of the last five games and may last till the spring – confidence.
Bayern benefitted from their usual mix of explosive offense, suffocating defense and enthusiastic home court advantage to defeat Galatasaray Istanbul 88-68 in the final game of Group C in the Euroleague Regular Season.
Nihad Djedovic led Munich with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Bryce Taylor was perfect behind the arc, hitting all three of his three-pointers including two-in-a-row to ice the game in the 4th quarter. His 13 points along with Robin Benzing’s 10 points made sure Bayern head into the next round on a positive note.
“We wanted to show that we are in the Top 16 on our own merits,” said Djedovic. “The game is 40 minutes, and we dominated the whole game. Until now the season is perfect. We are dominating the German league, and we reached our first goal in the Euroleague which was Top 16.”
Djedovic was spot on, Bayern controlled the game from the tip and John Bryant scored the first basket. Munich finished the quarter on a 14-2 run to take a 20-10 lead after the first quarter and they never looked back. Bryant started off with 8 points and 6 rebounds in the first 10 minutes. He may not have scored again in the game, but he set the table for the team.
In the second quarter, Sinan Güler hit a three-pointer to get Galatasaray within 29-24. But then Benzing caught fire, hitting a couple of treys during an 11-0 run to build the lead up to 40-24. Munich took a 43-32 lead into the locker rooms.
At the beginning of the second half, Galatasaray were staying close, but it was by a shoestring, as Bayern were threatening to close it out, leading by 17 at one point, but finished the third quarter only up 65-53.
Bayern turned it up a notch in the opening minutes of the final quarter, going on a 15-4 run, exclamation point Taylor’s long distance accuracy, to build a 23 point lead. And Munich cruised to the win and into the Top 16.
Please visit our Facebook page (“Like” it, of course!) for more pictures FC Bayern Basketball vs. Galatasaray Istanbul.
“We were very motivated that we show our strengths heading into the Top 16,” said Bayern head coach Svetislav Pešić. “We can be very proud at the end of the
Regular Season. That was a tough game to play as Galatasaray provided tough matchups for us, especially in the first half. But our players wanted to win, and they fought till the end.”
And what kind of confidence did they develop? Confidence that Bayern truly belong in the next round of the Euroleague and the Top 16, the elite of basketball on this side of the pond. Confidence that they can play with the top clubs on the continents and not just gain experience and moral victories, but actually have a chance to advance further in the tournament.
Bayern have dominated the BEKO Basketball Bundesliga after 13 games, winning 12, and all seven at home by an average of 25 points. After a 3-1 start in their Euroleague debut, five consecutive losses by the slimmest of margins, by the smallest of mistakes and by seconds of lapses put their European goals in jeopardy. Yes, Unicaja’s buzzer beating win Thursday night secured them a spot in the sweet 16 without having to win, Bayern were intent to stop the schnide, give their fans an early Christmas gift, and keep the festive tidings at a high.
“The Top 16 will be a tough group, in Europe there are no easy games,” analyzed Pešić. “But we had a tough group in the first round – we played the Italian and Turkish champions, and the two-time defending Euroleague champs.”
Joining Bayern in their half of the Top 16 are Real Madrid, Maccabi Tel Aviv (with former Bayern player Tyrese Rice), CSKA Moscow and Zalgiris Kaunas (both teams played in an exhibition in Munich in September 2012), Partizan Belgrade (a team for which Coach Pešić played back in the day), and Galatasaray will get a chance to act some revenge.
Before tonight, the question was whether Bayern can compete with the top teams in Europe. A win like the one fans and media saw tonight, can allow Pešić to shine a light even on the losses.
“We cannot underestimate the experience we had (in this round), we fought through. One has to be an experienced, game-tested team with quality to make the Top 16. We’ve progressed game-to-game and we look forward to have this chance to stay in the Euroleague.”
It will be tough, no doubt, but for now Bayern fans can look forward to the next level in the new year.
Follow FC Bayern Basketball, the BEKO Basketball Bundesliga, and Euroleague on Twitter @SportEagleTV #Basketballinsiders