"I never played an easy game against Zvezda", is how FC Bayern Munich head coach Andrea Trinchieri started his press conference after a come-from-behind 76-78 win in the Serbian capital over a feisty Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade.
Things did not look good at all for Bayern for the most part of Tuesday night's game. It got a lot worse with 2:21 left in the third quarter when Wade Baldwin IV, who re-entered the game just 30 seconds earlier, committed his fourth personal foul followed by Jordan Loyd making 2 free throws to open a 51-41 lead for Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade.
It was obvious up to that point that Baldwin was feeling it, having made 5 of 8 shots for 11 points - and would have scored more if not for foul trouble. Bayern struggled offensively and with Baldwin destined to go back to the bench, things did not look bright for the visiting side.
Only, Baldwin did not go back to sit on the bench. Trinchieri decided to keep Baldwin in the game, and it paid off in a massive way. Baldwin missed his next shot late in the third quarter, then went on to make his remaining 5 field goals in the game, including a pair of triples.
Baldwin finished the game with 27 points - 2 shy of his career-high. He scored 16 points while carrying 4 personal fouls. He made 7 of 10 two-point shots and 3 of 4 triples for the night.
"In the fourth quarter we found an alignment that was working, offensively and defensively", Trinchieri explained how his team came back. While the first step was raising a defensive level, which Bayern got with Nick Weiler-Babb and Zan Mark Sisko on the perimeter and James Gist playing center.
However, Baldwin still needed help on the offensive end and got it from his Bayern co-star Vladimir Lucic. Playing in his hometown and his home gym, it would not be at all unusual to see Lucic make important shots down the stretch if not for the fact that he was scoreless for the first 36 minutes of the game and missed all 6 shot attempts up to that point.
But he was part of the winning alignment Trinchieri talked about, making defensive plays first, then sinking a corner three, followed by a baseline jumper, then another triple from top of the key. Lucic scored 8 points in a span of 2 minutes and 13 seconds, giving Bayern the lead for good.
Baldwin and Lucic ended up combining for 21 of Bayern's 28 fourth-quarter points, lifting Bayern to its record 17th win, the most ever for a club in a single season in either the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague or 7DAYS EuroCup.
And a win that marked another significant step towards what would be a historic playoff berth for a German team.