Bayern edges Zalgiris to reach playoffs
FC Bayern Munich made history by claiming a spot in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs for the first time by edging Zalgiris Kaunas 71-70 at Audi Dome on Thursday. In a game that came down to the last shot, Bayern prevailed to improve to 20-13 in the standings. Zalgiris, which was already out of chances to make it to the next phase, dropped to 16-17. Vladimir Lucic led the winners with 13 points – including the game-winning free throws and a game-clinching block in the final seconds. Jalen Reynolds added 12 and Nick Weiler-Babb had 11 for Bayern. Thomas Walkup paced Zalgiris with 16 points. Nigel Hayes and Joffrey Lauvergne each scored 12 and Lukas Lekavicius 10 for the visitors. Lekavicius helped Zalgiris to a 21-22 lead after 10 minutes. Bayern took a 37-36 lead at halftime, extended it to 57-54 after 30 minutes and then to 63-56 early in the fourth quarter. Walkup and Hayes put Zalgiris ahead, 67-70, James Gist scored down low and then Lucic hit free throws and had the biggest block in club's history to send Bayern to the playoffs.
Lauvergne got Zalgiris going with a jump hook, but Reynolds quickly gave Bayern its first lead, 4-2. Walkup, Weiler-Babb and Marius Grigonis each made a three-pointer and Wade Baldwin IV banked in a close shot for a 9-8 score. Walkup erased Reynolds's layup with a floater and Lekavicius followed a triple with a driving basket for an 11-15 Zalgiris edge. D.J. Seeley and Baldwin stepped up for Bayern, but Hayes and Martinas Geben kept the visitors ahead, 15-19. JaJuan Johnson took over with a three-point play and then Weiler-Babb and Lekavicius each struck from downtown to fix the score at 21-22 after 10 minutes. Weiler-Babb and Grigonis traded floaters early in the second quarter and Lucic buried a three-pointer for a 26-24 Bayern lead. Walkup answered with a backdoor layup and Lauvergne scored in the paint, but Lucic and Baldwin kept the hosts in charge, 30-28. Leon Radosevic improved on Lauvergne's alley-oop slam with a triple, but Lekavicius and Karolis Lukosiunas gave Zalgiris a 35-36 lead. Gist put Bayern back in charge, 37-36, at halftime.
Paulius Jankunas hit a corner triple soon after the break. Reynolds scored twice in the low post and Paul Zipser downed a jumper, but Lauvergne followed back-to-back dunks with a jumper to keep Zalgiris ahead, 43-47. After Hayes buried a three-pointer, Reynolds and Lucic each dunked to bring Bayern within 48-50. Rokas Jokubaitis stepped up with consecutive layups. Weiler-Babb, Seeley and Radosevic each struck from downtown for a 57-54 Bayern lead after 30 minutes. Jankunas sank a jump hook, but Lucic and Zan Sisko boosted the hosts' lead to 61-56. Lucic buried a close jumper. Walkup followed a three-pointer with a dunk off a steal that caused Bayern to call timeout at 63-61. Gist rescued Zalgiris with a put-back layup, but Hayes improved on it with his second triple and added a close basket for a 65-66 Zalgiris lead with over 2 minutes left. Walkup hit free throws and Hayes scored again, but Gist kept the hosts close at 69-70. Lucic drew a foul with 2.3 seconds left and made both attempts. Zalgiris had a final chance to win it, but Lucic blocked Lauvergne's shot at the buzzer.
Vladimir Lucic stepped up as his team's undeniable leader in crunch time, but he was also Bayern's best player in this game. He finished the game with 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and 8 fouls drawn for a PIR of 18.
Zalgiris led 67-70 in the next-to-last minute. James Gist scored around the basket and Vladimir Lucic drew a foul with just 2.3 seconds to go. He buried both attempts. Zalgiris called timeout and put the ball in Joffrey Lauvergne's hands but Lucic blocked his shot at the buzzer.
The game came down to small details. Steals and blocks were some of these details. Bayern had 11 steals and only made 12 turnovers. Zalgiris collected just 4 steals and had 16 turnovers. Bayern also had 4 blocks and Zalgiris had none.
Did you know?
Bayern also became the first German team to reach the EuroLeague Quarterfinals since the turn of the millennium. ALBA Berlin reached the quarterfinals in the 1998 EuroLeague and the 2001 FIBA SuproLeague, where it lost against AEK Athens and Panathinaikos Athens, respectively.
Both teams return to EuroLeague action next week. Zalgiris finishes its 2020-21 EuroLeague campaign with a home game against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Thursday, April 8. A day later, Bayern visits first place FC Barcelona.
Thursday, April 1, 2021