"When you play back-to-back, it's like Forrest Gump: It's like a box of chocolates and you don't know what kind of game it’s going to be."
So said FC Bayern Munich head coach Andrea Trinchieri in his opening remarks at the post-game press conference at Audi Dome on Thursday after an 81-78 victory over Panathinaikos OPAP Athens.
Trinchieri was right. Surely few would have guessed that Bayern’s All-EuroLeague forward Vladimir Lucic would be held scoreless for the first three quarters or that guard Nick Weiler-Babb would lead the team in rebounds. However, Bayern was able to scarp its way to come-from-behind victory through a total team effort.
Darrun Hilliard bounced back from his worst game since joining Bayern over the summer to lead the team in scoring with 20 points and just 2 missed shots. Instead of basking in the glory of his strong effort, Hilliard reflected the spotlight onto his teammates.
"It took us a while, but Luc came in big for us and pulled it out,” Hilliard said to the television cameras after the game. “We came out slow and guys stepped out and we pulled it out. Guys like Andy [Obst] and Jare [Ognjen Jaramaz] and DT [DeShaun Thomas]. Aug [Rubit] made some big free throws down the stretch. So it was a big team effort and I’m really happy.”
By “Luc” he meant Lucic, who committed 2 early fouls and did not find a rhythm for the first 35-plus minutes of the game. Lucic missed 4 three-point tries before he drilled a critical triple with his team down 7 with 4 minutes to go. His next shot would prove to be the game-winner: a three that made it 77-76 with 29 seconds left and gave Bayern a lead it would not surrender.
By Andy, Hilliard was talking about Andreas Obst. The sharpshooter missed the start of the season and has not yet carved out a big part in the rotation, but in this game, he played 6:35 in the second half and connected on a pair of threes in the third quarter. It was the first time he has made multiple threes in a game, let alone a quarter, and the second one made it 59-60.
By ‘Jare’, he was talking about guard Ognjen Jaramaz, who played 4-plus minutes at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second during which time the Panathinaikos guards scored only 2 points.
By DT, Hilliard meant forward DeShaun Thomas. The Bayern forward played the most minutes on the team (29:34) and scored 15 points. He was hustling all night long and battled for 2 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, the second of which came with the team down 9. His putback helped spark the comeback.
By ‘Aug’, Hilliard meant Augustine Rubit, who grabbed a massive rebound with 9.9 seconds left and made 4 free throws in the closing seconds to help Bayern preserve the victory.
It was a lot of players to reference off the top of his head in a brief interview, but that’s how Hilliard and Bayern roll. Just ask DT.
“We never give up. We play as a team, we fight, we grind. That's what's special about our team through the ups and downs,” Thomas said seconds after Hilliard. “We know we got to fight, we got to help each other out on the court, defensively and offensively.”
As Bayern showed, not only does a team that grinds stick together, but they also appreciate their teammates’ efforts, big or small.