By Eurohoops team / firstname.lastname@example.org
The second-to-last (at least for most teams) round of the 2020-21 EuroLeague regular season was marked with a historic occasion not only for one team but for a country’s whole basketball scene, since Bayern Munich became the first German club to advance to the playoffs this century and in the modern era of the competition.
In order to do that, Bayern defeated Zalgiris Kaunas 71 – 70 thanks to consecutive hero-plays by Vladimir Lucic (all the details below), accomplishing a unique achievement for the franchise.
The last time a German team was in the EuroLeague playoffs, was back in 1998 when Alba Berlin made the quarterfinals in the then-named European Champions’ Cup. Now, it’s Bayern that will compete among the Top 8 teams in EuroLeague and will fight for a Final Four spot.
Our Top 5 of the week couldn’t be without a particular Bayern Munich representative, a certain superscorer and some other players who helped their teams get important wins in the race for the playoffs that is reaching its final lap.
Shane Larkin – Anadolu Efes
Shane Larkin’s name has been flying a bit under the radar in comparison to… let’s say, last season when the Efes star was just a terrifying, and one-of-a-kind force on the court. The American guard is still super productive (15.4 points, 4.3 assists, 2.4 rebounds) but his performances aren’t in that superman-level power of the previous year.
Enter the game vs. Baskonia and particularly the second half when Larkin went full in-Shane. After scoring two points at halftime and staying silent in the first five minutes of the third period, he began firing on all cylinders to finish with a season-high 30 points on 10-18 shots (including 6-9 triples) while draining some ice-cold 3-pointers down the stretch. A not-so-friendly reminder of what he can do when he’s fully unleashed.
- Kevin Pangos – Zenit St. Petersburg: He guided the Zenit offense with 10 points and eight assists while committing just one turnover in a must-do win over ASVEL Villeurbanne. It’s one step closer to the playoffs for the Russian team that has two games to play (the Round 34 match vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv and a postponed game against Panathinaikos) and thus a really solid chance of making the postseason in its maiden EuroLeague appearance.
- Shane Larkin – Anadolu Efes: Pure fire.
- Klemen Prepelic – Valencia: The term “do-or-die” was pretty accurate for Valencia against Alba Berlin since the Taronja had suffered an upset to Olympiacos at home some days ago. Klemen Prepelic stepped up in a time of huge need for the Spanish team, first with points (17 out of his career-high 24 in the first half) and then also with assists (seven, also a career-high) to lead his team to a win that keeps its playoffs hopes very much alive.
- Vladimir Lucic -Bayern Munich: If it wasn’t for Vladimir Lucic’s contribution in the last two seconds of the Bayern – Zalgiris game, we’d most likely have a different headline here. The Serbian forward (13 points, six rebounds) first hit the go-ahead free throws and then delivered the block on Joffrey Lauvergne to seal a momentous victory of his team and with it, the ticket to the playoffs.
- Gabriel Deck (Real Madrid): In case you’re looking for the main factor for Real Madrid’s comfortable win over Olympiacos, look no further from what Gabriel Deck did in the first half. He dropped 14 points to help his team set the foundations for the Blancos’ key victory in the pursuit for a playoffs spot since his team took a 36 – 26 halftime lead and then built from there. He continued doing damage also with rebounds, to finish with 18 points (7-7 from the field), five boards and six fouls drawn.
Coach of the Round: Oded Kattash (Panathinaikos Athens)
“We talked at halftime and I’m really happy about the way the players reacted in the second half. We were down 10 in rebounds, but we had more at the end. We put in a lot of effort. We did a great job defensively in the second half. I’m very happy about the character that we showed.”
Indeed. It took them a bit into the second half but overall a completely different Panathinaikos came out of the locker room after the break to ultimately beat Olimpia Milano following a comeback from 20 points down, and manage to at least close a disappointing season on a high note at home. Coach Kattash showed the way and his players fought with great resilience, especially down the stretch to first force the overtime (thanks to a layup by Mario Hezonja) and then get the victory.
Don’t spill the wine
… unless it’s in a pool. An Olympic pool, the size of which might be enough to satisfy the thirst of coach Andrea Trinchieri, following Bayern’s first-ever qualification in the EuroLeague playoffs.
– How are you gonna celebrate coach?
– I will drink a pool of red wine. OLYMPIC POOL
Andrea Trinchieri FOR THE WIN pic.twitter.com/WJ6VBYWUej
— Eurohoops (@Eurohoopsnet) April 1, 2021
Also make sure that the wine is a fine one. Probably barolo.
Andrea Trinchieri wisdom pic.twitter.com/Q5M6UEI6X9
— Antonis Stroggylakis (@AStroggylakis) April 1, 2021
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball