Road to playoffs: FC Bayern Munich

Apr 14, 2021 by Print
Road to playoffs: FC Bayern Munich

FC Bayern Munich started the 2020-21 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season with a new coach, Andrea Trinchieri, and a lot of hungry players either without experience in the competition or with a lot to prove in European basketball. That combination has paid off well as Bayern recorded a franchise-best 21-13 regular season record to become the first German team to reach the EuroLeague Playoffs this century!

Things did not start well for Bayern, as it lost its opener at home against AX Armani Exchange on a late three-point shot by Shavon Shields. Bayern went on to win its next four games, downing ALBA Berlin, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv and Fenerbahce Istanbul on the road, and then besting Olympiacos Piraeus 74-68 at home with 18 points from Wade Baldwin against his former squad.

Bayern went on to win seven of its next eight home games, turning the Audi Dome into a fortress. In that span, Bayern also managed to down mighty Anadolu Efes Istanbul on the road in mid-November, 71-74, rallying from a double-digit deficit in the last 7 minutes as Baldwin had 15 points and 11 assists.

All non-playoffs teams lost at the Audi Dome in the regular season, but during that strong run at home, Bayern also managed to defeat eventual standings leader FC Barcelona 90-77 with yet another huge game by Baldwin: 29 points and 7 assists for a career-high PIR of 41. Earlier in the season, Bayern topped Valencia Basket 90-79 as Vladimir Lucic had 22 points, 7 rebounds and a PIR of 35 against his former team.

Once it started to win on the road, Bayern put together another victorious stretch. From late January to late March, Bayern triumphed in six of its seven scheduled games, winning five of them by 5 points or less and the sixth one in overtime. Bayern defeated CSKA Moscow 66-69 as Baldwin, Lucic and Jalen Reynolds combined for 55 points. In a German derby, Bayern needed overtime to down ALBA 101-95 after having trailed by 13 points with 6 minutes left.

Finding answers consistently in close end-of-game situations became the team's calling card. Indeed, Bayern played in 18 games decided by 7 points or less, more than any other EuroLeague team, and won 13 of them.

One of those most remarkable finishes came in Round 30 as Bayern stopped red-hot Anadolu Efes, which had arrived at the Audi Dome on an eight-game winning streak. They battled into the final seconds until James Gist sealed Bayern's 19th victory of the season with a blocked shot at the buzzer. However, the German powerhouse needed one more win to reach the playoffs.

That historic moment would come in Round 33 as Bayern edged Zalgiris Kaunas 71-70 at home. Lucic was the late-game hero this time, hitting go-ahead free throws with 2.3 seconds left and then blocking Joffrey Lauvergne's shot before the final buzzer. With that, Bayern had officially punched its playoffs ticket ending a century-long drought of German teams in the EuroLeague's postseason.

In the one game left to be played, Bayern defeated first-place Barcelona on the road, 72-82, with 26 points from Reynolds. That win gave Bayern fifth place at the end of the regular season, setting up an exciting series with Milan, its first opponent of the season. Milan has not been in the Final Four since 1992 and Bayern fights to become the first German squad to reach that far in the EuroLeague.