The German basketball season comes to a climax with the two most beautiful words in Bundesliga, Game 5
Forget about the road to Euroleague. This Sunday is about one thing. Who wins the last game of the year?
It has been a rocky road for defending champions Bayern Munich throughout this season. The losses of Deon Thompson and Malcolm Delaney would hurt most elite sides on the continent and defensively they never fully got it together. Euroleague was a struggle with some long nights for fans in the Audi Dome. Eurocup offered some solace, not least those beatdowns of their Bavarian rivals, but a drubbing from Valencia in the knockout rounds and an early exit from the cup at the hands of Alba Berlin pointed to a lost year for Bayern. Come the playoffs, after a long year and 52 games without serious adjustment they entered the playoffs as a wounded but still dangerous outfit. In a scenario nobody saw coming back in October, Goliath had to get gritty.
The Munich giants were the only one of Germany’s big three not to walk into the semi-finals with a sweep, they were forced to earn a 3-1 series over Fraport Skyliners. The semi-final round began with everything we had come to know about Bayern. They got routed by Alba but then, the beast woke up. A big win in Game 2 followed by a close call in Game 3 before Bayern roared back again to square the series. That Game 5 in Berlin is a serious contender for game of the season purely for the basketball but add in the drama of Svetislav Pesic getting ejected and Robin Benzing taking one for the team and you’ve got a team really grinding it out against the odds. It’s a strange position for Bayern to be in, this is the richest club in the Bundesliga with the capacity to blow things up but they haven’t played like that all year. Now, finally they had found their character and they rode that to victory in Game 1 of these finals against Brose Baskets Bamberg.
That awoke all the fears of those who had watched Bamberg this season. In terms of match-up, Bayern just seemed to have them. The early part of the season had gone almost perfectly for Andrea Trinchieri with his side riding high in Bundesliga while Alba took the lion’s share of attention due to their hot start. Through Christmas they looked far removed from the team that lost its crown in limp style the previous summer. Having ruled the Bundesliga for four straight seasons, they were coming back from a down season and opened the calendar year with a hammering of Bayern in Brose Arena.
Then came the stunners in Eurocup. Bayern tore them to shreds home and away. Another loss to Bayern in mid-April would be their last entry in the L column before the playoffs. Bamberg went on an 11-0 run to enter the finals fresh but perhaps just that little bit too rested. They were caught cold at home by Bayern first time out but went to Munich and regained home court advantage. Game 3 was a typical night in Freak City, a close first half was followed by Bamberg busting a hole in Bayern during the third quarter. They were one win from the championship but the champions were not done yet. Bayern came back and showed their offensive might to deliver another beat-down in Game 4.
On Sunday, both teams need to put all of that behind them. It’s 40 minutes to decide who wins the only trophy that really mattered to either at the start of the season.