Trevor Mbakwe and Darius Miller came big when it mattered as Brose Baskets Bamberg took the German title with an 88-84 win over Bayern Munich to take the finals 3-2. Emmet Ryan reports on their championship win with the aid of a rauchbier
In January it looked grim. All the raw numbers were great, Bamberg were riding high atop the Bundesliga and they were set for a deep run in Eurocup, but two hidings at the hands of Bayern made it look as though the balance of power in Bavaria had shifted decisively. Home court advantage may have been going Brose Baskets’ way but they looked to be in match-up hell against their wealthier opponents to the south. Even when they coasted into the finals, those doubts remained and Game 1 did little to inspire. Bamberg fought back and on Sunday Trevor Mbakwe showed the only match-up problems were on Bayern’s side.
The line of 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 1 block barely describes the problems the former Minnesota Golden Gopher caused Bayern. Mbakwe is one of the most in-demand bigs in Europe this summer, it will be a miracle if Bamberg retain him, but on Sunday he was everything Brose Baskets needed. Interior defence has been a nightmare for Bayern all year. Truth be told, all defence has been an issue but they have been especially poor against smart operators in the paint. On Sunday he used every ounce of his athleticism to burn Bayern early and often.
Andrea Trinchieri has been forced to adapt on the fly through this series but it was his game plan from the off here that put the visitors in trouble. An electric 9-0 start, backed up by speedy rotations on D that wouldn’t look amiss in the Oracle Arena, was aided in no small part by Daniel Theis doing his best Sergio Llull impression through the first half. An early onslaught was absolutely vital to Bamberg. All season long, from some pretty ugly situations, Svetislav Pesic has been able to count on his side to shoot their way out of trouble in the second half. Trinchieri knew his approach would test the stamina of his charges but he had no choice. It was the last game of the season and he had to force Bayern to come at them. At the half the gulf was 13 points and Bayern looked limp.
A rally midway through the third was stamped out by the home side. Bayern needed to come big in that frame, they needed to chip into the lead somewhat but when the horn sounded they had only matched Bamberg over those 10 minutes. It looked like Trinchieri’s job was done but Bayern finally found a spark in the form of Luca Staiger who hit 3 threes to ask questions of the home side early in the final frame but Darius Miller had enough answers for him at the other end to keep some air between the sides. Mbakwe then took over and looked to have iced the game with a late flourish but there was a touch of crazy left in this one.
Bayern rallied once more and Trinchieri, who up to this point had called a great game, opted against a timeout with his side up 5. Instead Bamberg tried a long inbounds pass that inevitably ended up in a turnover. Bayern cut the gap to two with just 4.7 seconds left on the clock and it looked like the reigning champions had somehow engineered a way to save their title. With his side leading 86-84, Dawan Robinson stepped up for the two most important free throws of his life. He nailed both and Freak City could celebrate.
Happy people! Der Champ Daniel Theis mit seinem Kumpel @DennisMike93! #PlayoffsBaby pic.twitter.com/evSOEvjud0
— #PlayoffsBaby! (@BekoBBL) June 21, 2015
For a town that has truly embraced this team, there could be no sweeter moment. From 2010 through 2013, Brose Baskets were the undisputed kings of the Bundesliga but the threat from the south and the rise of Alba were always obvious. This club knew it wouldn’t own the perch forever, it would have to fight for it. After a limp end last summer, fresh blood was needed. With Trinchieri on the sideline and Mbakwe on the court, they made the moves they needed to get back in the mix of Germany’s big three.
When I returned to Freak City last November, I could feel the belief in this town. On a Eurocup night against Reggio Emilia the fans literally shook my stomach. There are plenty of places across Europe where basketball is big but few where it is such a part of a city’s identity. A medieval town, home to some of the finest pork hocks and potato dumplings this writer has every washed down with a rauchbier is back in the big time. Euroleague awaits Bamberg but for now they will simply celebrate being Bamback as champions of the Bundesliga.
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