Bayern tops Barcelona in Gasol's return
FC Bayern Munich claimed a solid 72-82 victory over FC Barcelona at Palau Blaugrana on Friday night to earn fifth place in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague standings at the end of the regular season. The visitors never trailed as they built a 22-29 first-quarter lead resisted all of Barcelona's comeback attempts. Bayern, whose record improved to 21-13, was led by Jalen Reynolds, who scored career-high 26 points on 13-of-17 two-point shooting, grabbed 5 boards and added 3 steals in just 25 minutes against his former team. He was followed by Wade Baldwin IV, who tallied 18 points and 6 assists, and Vladimir Lucic, who contributed 14 points for the winners. Leo Westermann and Leandro Bolmaro paced the hosts with 12 points apiece, while Brandon Davies chipped in 11 in the losing effort. Barcelona dropped to 24-10 but had already secured the first place. Club and European basketball legend Pau Gasol started in his first game back with the team after 20 years. He scored 9 points and pulled 4 boards in 13 minutes on the floor.
The visitors used a strong start in which Leon Radosevic hit a three and Baldwin added a three-point play to get an early 4-11 lead. The hosts fed Gasol on the offensive end to stay close until Westermann nailed a three to 13-13 after 5 minutes. Both squads ran quick offenses, but Bayern benefitted the most from it. A triple by Lucic, 6 points in a row by Reynolds, and another bucket by JaJuan Johnson opened a 17-26 margin for the guests. Diego Flaccadori made it bigger with a three-pointer, but Bolmaro beat the buzzer from deep as the first quarter closed at 22-29. Davies brought Barcelona within 26-31 early in the second quarter, but after a Bayern timeout, Lucic and Reynolds rebuilt a comfortable advantage, 26-35. Baldwin and Reynolds combined later to push it to double digits, 31-41, as the hosts switched lineups attempting to find their momentum. Gasol joined Victor Claver in Barcelona's frontcourt, and that combination worked better, especially on defense. Bayern didn't hit a field goal for more than 4 minutes, allowing Barcelona to close within 37-43 at halftime on a late layup by Claver and a free throw by Gasol.
Defenses kept dominating after the break. Rolands Smits became the go-to guy for Barcelona, scoring 6 points to reduce the gap to 43-47. Gasol added a layup to make it a one-possession game, forcing a Bayern timeout. Reynolds returned on court then and scored twice to calm Bayern, while Zan Sisko showed up from deep to soon extend the margin to 46-54. Westermann and Adam Hanga combined on offense to help Barcelona keep the visitors in sight, 55-60, entering the fourth quarter. Davies tried to boost his team with an inside bucket, but Bayern reacted quickly once again. Lucic hit a jumper to start a 2-10 run in which Baldwin and Reynolds provided several highlight plays to make it a double-digit lead, 59-70. Hanga hit from beyond the arc then assisted Bolmaro to keep alive Barcelona's fire. A timely three by Bayern's Paul Zipser cooled it, however, then Baldwin and Lucic joined to rebuild a solid 66-77 margin with 3 minutes to go. Barcelona got stuck in Bayern's tough defense, unable to score from the field, so when Reynolds dunked it for a 67-79 lead, both teams understood things were decided already. Alex Abrines tried to fight against the odds with a three-pointer, but a quick answer from Baldwin entering the last minute definitely sealed the outcome.
Gasol and the Euroleague reunited
Pau Gasol returned to the EuroLeague for the first time in over 20 years, marking longest period between appearances of any player this century. Starting the game, Gasol didn't need much time to score. He hit a five-meter jumper after 45 seconds and followed that with 4 more points before heading to the bench after almost 5 minutes on court. He finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds and an assist in 13 minutes.
Jalen Reynolds, who had played 9 games for Barcelona at the end of 2017-18 season, had a terrific performance against his ex-team. He was dominant all over the court, against everyone he faced, providing several highlight plays. Reynolds made 13 of 18 two-pointers, matching the season high in the EuroLeague, on his way to a career-high scoring night of 26 points.
Bayern led all over the way
The visitors dominated the game from the beginning to the end, never trailing. FC Barcelona could only forge a tie in the first quarter, the last time when Leo Westermann hit a three and a bucket to get it all square at 15-15.
Time to rest
FC Barcelona took advantage of its first seeding having already been secure to rest some major players. March MVP Nikola Mirotic, Cory Higgins and Pierre Oriola all sat out for head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius.
FC Barcelona will have to wait to know who will face to start its EuroLeague Playoffs series, as Zenit St Petersbourg will play against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Monday, April 14, to decide the last playoff spot. FC Bayern Munich will play against AX Armani Exchange Milan in the Italian capital on Tuesday, April 20.
Friday, April 9, 2021