After the first 40 minutes of this final series for the German championship, the participants were very divided on an important question. Alba Berlin had prevailed in their own hall on Friday evening after a strong final phase with 86:73, but was the dominance of the defending champion in the last quarter due to the decreasing strength of the Bayern Munich players after the strenuous series against Bonn? “We played 48 hours earlier, we ran out of energy, first physically, then mentally,” said Munich coach Andrea Trinchieri. “I didn’t have the feeling that it played a role,” replied Bayern’s best thrower Andreas Obst. “We had this rhythm throughout the season and in the end we simply have to be smarter.”
At Alba, too, opinions on this matter differed slightly. While manager Marco Baldi attributed Berlin’s faster pace in the last few minutes to Alba’s much more light-footed style of play, Louis Olinde saw physical advantages in his team. “Of course it’s still a little bit in their legs,” said the winger. However, he did not recognize the decisive factor in this, because “in the finals the will is even more important”.
As in the semifinals against Ludwigsburg, Alba showed impressive maturity against their big rivals. For a long time, it was not at all ideal for the Berliners in terms of play. The guards Maodo Lo and Jaleen Smith, who have been so dominant in recent months, did not find their rhythm against the well-adjusted defense of Munich, the pace was lacking and only the good three-point quota kept Alba’s offensive going at first. “The most difficult thing against Bayern is to play your game,” said Baldi.
For a long time it looked more like Bayern basketball: slow, physical, fighting. Then came the usual skirmishes in the third quarter. Trinchieri was penalized for a technical foul for complaining, Vladimir Lucic theatrically threw himself on the ground, covering his face despite being hit in the chest, the crowd cheered on some controversial whistles. “Munich is the most ripped off team,” said Baldi. “One falls, one ties his shoe, the coach complains. It’s always something, and that takes the rhythm out of you.”
Trinchieri had already started with the little mind games before the start of the final series and gave Alba the role of favorites – as in the semifinals against Bonn. Baldi doesn’t think much of such discussions. “All these background noises are completely unimportant,” said the Berlin manager. “If I were Bavaria and I made Bonn my favorite in front of a series like this: I don’t see a ‘mia san mia’ there.”
In the past, Alba has been somewhat disconcerted by the heated atmosphere and competitive play of such a series of finals, particularly against Bayern, who won six of the seven play-off series between the two German Euroleague contenders . But currently the self-confidence of the Berliners is so high after 18 wins in a row and the team so well-rehearsed that even such resistance can be overcome.
One of the keys on Friday, in addition to the advantages in rebounding, was Alba’s much greater versatility. Tamir Blatt, Malte Delow, Louis Olinde, Johannes Thiemann, Christ Koumadje and briefly Oscar da Silva were involved in the 11-0 run that turned the game in the final quarter. Captain Luke Sikma cheered them on from the bench, as did leaders Lo and Smith. While Trinchieri only trusts his veterans in the crucial phases, Alba’s coach Israel Gonzalez involves the entire squad. “We are very balanced as a team,” said Thiemann. “We always manage to win the games in which one or the other doesn’t work that well.”
For the second game on Tuesday (7 p.m., Magentasport), Alba travels to Munich with a 1-0 lead. However, the Berliners do not expect a psychological advantage after the opening win. The pressure in the Rudi-Sedlmayer-Halle is clearly on Bayern, but especially in the Euroleague against Barcelona they showed impressively that they can withstand it. “They have been in very difficult situations many times and have the experience to solve them,” Gonzalez said.
Baldi expects a very heated atmosphere. “Munich knows how to get the spectators involved, how to get a small advantage at every level.” The Berliners have respect, but they are not afraid of the inhospitable atmosphere and the incited opponents. “It’s only 1-0 and we still have a lot of work to do,” said Alba’s top scorer Yovel Zoosman. “We’re two wins short and we’re ready.”
In all probability, this will also apply to Munich, because Trinchieri made it clear on Friday evening what he wants to see from his team. “I’m expecting the reaction of a team that’s been kicked in the butt. We have to answer on the field.”