That was a game on a knife’s edge! The German champions and cup winners Brose Bamberg caught up twice after trailing by a wide margin on the road against FC Bayern Munich in the Audi Dome to run out narrow winners by 80:76 thanks to Janis Strelnieks’ lay-up with five seconds left. Bamberg now leads 2:0 in the playoff semi-final and can book its ticket for the final with a victory on Sunday in the Brose Arena.
Bamberg’s Head Coach Andrea Trinchieri proved right: Arch-rivals FC Bayern did not do Bamberg the favor of turning in a second weak performance as in the 82:59 blowout in the first game of the series. Djordjevic’s team produced a show of sparkling offensive play, especially in the opening, in the Audi Dome on Thursday. Bamberg was not able to defend against the first seven attacks and trailed 10:15 after five minutes in a spell in which Bayern did not miss a shot. Bayern subsequently continued to exploit every small gap in Bamberg’s covering and so took the first period by a clear margin. Only the outstanding Fabien Causeur, with twelve points in the first quarter, prevented his side from slipping more than 20:30 behind. The title-holders finally stepped up their intensity in defense in the second period and at last managed to make stops at the back and so prevent Bayern from scoring. And Munich were still not able to shackle the left-handed Causeur. With his 21st point in the first half and his team trailing 23:34, the French player closed the deficit almost single-handedly (36:37). Nicolo Melli (8 points) then drained a bucket from beyond the arc to give the defending champs their first and only lead up to then, as Bamberg went in leading 41:39.
After the break, Causeur’s engine stuttered in offense, as Bayern again turned on the screws and was able to open up a nine-point gap with seven minutes left (63:72). Darius Miller (12 points), Janis Strelnieks (13) and Nikos Zisis (8) kept the champions in the game with a lay-up and two threes to produce an 8:0 run and make it 71:72 with four minutes remaining. Bamberg was now strong again at the back, with the result that Bayern did not score a point from the floor for seven minutes, adding only to its tally from the foul line to extend the lead to 71:76. However, the final two minutes belonged to Trinchieri’s team: Janis Strelnieks sold Bayern’s best player Devin Booker an elegant dummy and drained a step-back three (74:76), after which top scorer Fabien Causeur (23 points) made his only bucket in the second half with an inimitable drive to the basket to tie the encounter at 76:76. And whereas Bayern made a mess of scoring off a wide-open lay-up, Janis Strelnieks capitalized on its crucial mistake. Bayern had expected Bamberg to shoot from outside and so neglected to close down the space below the hoop, so Strelnieks drove quickly through the zone to add a lay-up and give Bamberg its second lead of the game (78:76) with five seconds left on the clock. Bayern was only better than Bamberg in terms of the statistics (just 7 turnovers conceded compared to 16 by Bamberg), but the most momentous was caused by, of all people, Bayern’s most experienced player with seconds left. Bryce Taylor, who was covered by Fabien Causeur, allowed the poor pass by Maxi Kleber to slip through his hands, meaning Bamberg had possession with two seconds to go – the game was decided!
Andrea Trinchieri commented: “It was a brilliant playoff game, a magnificent fight with great comebacks. If you want to beat such an opponent on the road in the playoffs, you have to play calmly and with focus for 40 minutes and wait for your moment. We did that well. There were a lot of tough moments for us in the game. We weren’t ready in the first period. But we stuck to our game even when we were trailing by eleven. Fabien was outstanding in offense in the first half and very strong in defense in the second, especially on the last attack when he provoked Taylor into losing possession.”