Two very different sides of the comeback coin

Oct 18, 2020 by Print
Two very different sides of the comeback coin

Apart from the lasting impression it left -- one of incredible competitiveness in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague -- FC Bayern Munich's remarkable 71-74 victory over host Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul on Friday put on prominent display both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

That score may sound pedestrian until you know that Bayern trailed by 20 points 7 minutes after the tipoff and was still behind by that amount, 47-27, at the 7:50 mark of the third quarter. Rallies of that size are not too rare in the EuroLeague – after all, three consecutive Final Fours last decade, from 2012 to 2014, turned on comebacks of 15 to 19 points – but few would have guessed that Bayern was ready for one.

First, the German club had never won in the Ulker Sports and Event Hall in four previous tries, nor had its new coach, Andrea Trinchieri, in three separate visits. Second, Bayern had spent a lot of energy two nights earlier to beat another top contender, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv, on the road. And third, Fenerbahce was looking like world-beaters in the first half as it tried to erase the memory of an overtime loss on the same floor two nights earlier to CSKA Moscow.

But rise Bayern did, with the same spirit that Fenerbahce had for the first 20 minutes, but seemed to lose in the face of the unexpected revival of the visitors. Bayern ate up ground in chunks, going from 47-27 to 51-41 in less than 4 minutes and later starting the fourth quarter with a 5-18 run to take its first lead of the game, 63-65, with 5:37 to play. Bayern won the second half 26-50 in its second road game in 48 hours, exploding the notion that teams must tire themselves out as a double-round game week progresses.

Afterward, both coaches tried to explain, from very different post-game perspectives, what transpired in this tale of two extremely different halves.

"Double-week is a weird week," Bayern boss Andrea Trinchieri said. "Double-week with two road games, in Tel Aviv and Istanbul... it's super weird. It can happen that your team looks drunk. We looked drunk in the first half. The good thing of the team I coach is that they have soul. I am trying to reduce the number of mistakes we are doing, and I am not succeeding much, according to my plan. But my team is teaching me what are the most important things: never, ever give up; play tough: play with heart; dive for the ball; and play as a team. These are the things that allowed us to win an unbelievable game, down by 20, coming back against Fenerbahce, which is a Final Four team. It's very sweet, because this allows me to push my players to get better."

Still processing his team's slow-motion defeat, Fenerbahce's Igor Kokoskov pulled no punches.

"Tough game, tough loss for our team. We are very disappointed," he said. "I am personally very disappointed in the way we performed in the second half. We saw two completely different halves: the first half that I hope is the real face of our team; and a second half in which we just disappeared. We lost our edge. We lost our energy. We ran out of gas. I strongly believe that coaches can lose a game. My old coach who was my mentor was telling me that if you're up 20 and you lose the game, it's always on the coach. So, as the coach, I'm taking full responsibility for a game like this. And I'm going to always stay behind my team and my guys and take full responsibility for this performance. There is winning and misery in this business, and we feel miserable tonight."

In other words, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.