Bayern rallies past Milan to even series
FC Bayern Munich’s fairytale season stayed alive as the German team came back from 13 points down to knock off AX Armani Exchange Milan 85-82 and force Game 5. Milan pulled away late in the first half and the advantage was 42-55 early in the third quarter. Bayern fought back and went ahead at 80-79 with 3 minutes to play. The hosts were trailing by two points when Vladimir Lucic threw down an alley-oop pass from Paul Zipser and hit the bonus free throw with 23 seconds to play. Lucic, the hero from Game 3, calmly sank two more free throws with 8.3 seconds remaining to ice the game and keep Bayern’s dreams of a first-ever Final Four alive. Wade Baldwin led Bayern with 18 points while Zipser scored all 16 of his points in the final 17 minutes. Lucic and JaJuan Johnson both picked up 12 points and DJ Seeley added 11 points. Bayern struggled to slow down Malcolm Delaney, who totalled 28 points, while Shavon Shields added 17 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists for Milan. Zach LeDay and Kevin Punter both chipped in 10 points but it was not enough and Milan will have to finish the series at home for the three-time European champion to make the Final Four for the first time in 29 years.
Delaney opened the game with a three-pointer on the first possession before Jalen Reynolds hit free throws for Bayern’s first points. It was 2-6 before Baldwin hit Bayern’s first basket after more than 3 minutes, and home team coach Andrea Trinchieri continued to switch through players looking for the right mix. DJ Seeley came on and immediately hit a three-pointer and two free throws, putting Bayern up for the first time, 9-8. Kyle Hines threw down a dunk as Milan briefly went back ahead, but Seeley added six more points and Johnson chipped in a three-point play to send Bayern up 23-19 after 10 minutes. Sergio Rodriguez started the second quarter with a three-pointer, which was cancelled out by an and-one from Reynolds. Milan remained on target from deep with a Luigi Datome triple and Delaney adding a four-point play for the game’s biggest lead so far, 26-32. Johnson tried to keep Bayern close with two jumpers but Delaney picked up six more points and LeDay increased the lead. A Jeremy Evans dunk swelled the margin to double figures and Milan went into the break up 40-50.
Bayern opened the second half scoring on a Baldwin fastbreak layup but Delaney punched back with a triple and LeDay threw down a big dunk for a 42-55 lead. Zipser stepped up for the hosts with a big dunk and one, and added a three-pointer to help Bayern get within 61-66. But Shields came up big at the end of the quarter with a buzzer-beating three-pointer and Milan was up 63-71 after 30 minutes. After Punter’s jumper re-established the double-digit margin for Milan, Zipser drained a three-pointer, Lucic followed from deep and Zipser hammered home a dunk to reduce the deficit to 73-75. Zipser hit another triple to get within one point and Reynolds drained a jumper to put Bayern ahead, 80-79, with 3 minutes to play. Milan nosed back in front on a layup by Delaney, who missed the bonus free throw. Delaney was off target on his next layup attempt and Bayern raced back for an alley-up dunk and-one by Lucic with 23 seconds to play for a 83-82 lead. James Gist came up with a huge defensive play by drawing an offensive foul on Shields with 9.7 seconds left. Lucic stepped up at the other end with two free throws with 8.3 seconds remaining for an 85-82 margin. Datome and Delaney missed three-pointers in the final seconds and Bayern forced Game 5.
History one step closer
Bayern became just the fifth team to force a Game 5 of the playoffs after losing the first two games. Should Bayern win the decider next week it would be the first team in EuroLeague history to reach the Final Four after going down 0-2 in the playoffs.
Bayern defense steps up in second half
Bayern has been thriving with its defense this season and it failed them in the second quarter, allowing Milan to score 31 points. But the Italian side produced just 33 points in the final 20 minutes as Bayern’s defense again stood tall.
Reynolds with ray of hope
After being a force for Bayern all regular season, Jalen Reynolds had struggled mightily in the playoffs. He had 8.0 points and 3.3 rebounds through the first three games after averaging 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 34 regular season games. In Game 4, though, Reynolds had a ray of hope as he picked up 9 points and 6 rebounds, including the offensive rebound and put-back to make it 78-79 and then the jumper to put Bayern up 80-79.
Bayern made 22-of-26 free throws to 20-of-26 for Milan and the hosts converted on 57.1% of its two-pointers. Bayern also committed only 11 turnovers and its defense got to the Milan reserves, who had 10 of Milan’s 14 turnovers in the game.
Bayern and Milan will duke it out in Game 5 for a spot in the Final Four on Tuesday, May 4 in Italy.
Friday, April 30, 2021