FC Bayern Munich had been out of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague for three years, but upon its return not only keeps showing it is here to stay, but has started to reach new achievements. The win against AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan was special for many reasons. Mainly, because Bayern never gave up and got a character win. A three-pointer by Nemanja Nedovic seemed to give Milan the game with over a minute left, 78-74, but Bayern kept its opponent scoreless down the stretch. Meanwhile, Danilo Barthel scored a critical basket in the paint and Derrick Williams added a three-point play to put Bayern ahead. The guests got all the defensive stops they needed down the stretch - Milan missed its 4 shots in the final 37 seconds and Nihad Djedovic eventually added a free throw to round out the final score, 78-80.
This win confirms that Williams is quickly becoming one of the best power forwards in the competition. Not only did he play a decisive role with the go-ahead three-point play, but Williams recorded another really strong game. He had 21 points on 6-of-7 two-point shooting, 6 rebounds and 9 fouls drawn for a game-high performance index rating of 30. He previously had a PIR of 35 against Zalgiris Kaunas and despite coming off the bench in 12 games until now, and scoring in single digits in four of his opening five games, Williams is averaging 14.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and a PIR of 15.3.
Italy had been a tough country for Bayern until now. The German powerhouse had lost all five games it played in Italy in European club competitions - against Benetton Treviso in the 2011-12 EuroCup, Montepaschi Siena in the 2013-14 EuroLeague, Milan in the 2014-15 EuroLeague, and against Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia and Fiat Turin in the 2017-18 EuroCup. That losing streak ended on Wednesday, and Bayern now ranks sixth in the EuroLeague with a 7-6 record. It will have the chance to defend its current spot in the standings next against mighty Real Madrid.
"You cannot compare with the rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona, but there is a big sports rivalry between Madrid and Bayern. I hope there will be a big rivalry in basketball, too. That will mean we reached their level!" Petteri Koponen said in his EuroLeague.net blog. There is, indeed, a huge sporting rivalry between both football clubs. It is the most played game in European football competitions, 26, since both teams' first showdown in 1976. Bayern's basketball section now aspires to take that rivalry to the hardwood.