FC Bayern Munich and Unicaja Malaga enter the 7DAYs EuroCup quarterfinals having gone through very different journeys so far and having already played each other twice, with both victories going to the Germany powerhouse, which also holds home-court advantage in this best-of-three series.
Learn from the past, keep looking forward
FC Bayern Munich and Unicaja Malaga enter their 7DAYs EuroCup quarterfinals series having gone through very different journeys so far. Unicaja has lost three of its last four games and now has a 7-7 record this season. Meanwhile, Bayern went through the Top 16 undefeated and has won nine EuroCup games in a row. It has lost only two games – both against Zenit St. Petersburg – this season. The two have already met in regular season Group C, with Bayern sweeping Unicaja by winning 72-69 on its home floor and beating its opponents in Malaga 62-74. Both teams base their games on very solid defense. Unicaja and Bayern were both among top four in fewest points allowed in both the regular season and Top 16. Bayern's defense did a little better, holding opponents to 73.4 points per game compared to Unicaja's 75.9. The big difference, however, has been on offense, where Unicaja scored a Top 16-low 72.7 points, while Bayern had third-best scoring offense, posting 86.3 points per contest. Bayern certainly hopes to continue on the same path, while Unicaja hopes to learn from the previous 14 games, and change things for the better in this best-of-three playoff series.
Both Unicaja and Bayern have matched their best-ever EuroCup results this season, although that piece of information is a little bit misleading. And even though these clubs aim for new heights in this competition, the players and coaches on each are far from inexperienced in playing in the competition or winning trophies on big stages. For Bayern, this is its second consecutive season in the EuroCup quarterfinals. For Unicaja, this season marks its debut in the EuroCup, but only because Unicaja had previously spent 15 seasons in the EuroLeague, reaching the Top 16 in the last 11 years. The core players in Unicaja's rotation have 14 EuroCup seasons' worth of experience combined in recent years, including guard Oliver Lafayette who won the trophy with Valencia Basket in 2014, and new addition center Alen Omic, who played in the semifinals with Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas last season. On Bayern's side, forward Vladimir Lucic has also won the trophy with Valencia in 2014, while the likes of Nihad Djedovic, Reggie Redding, Anton Gavel, Alex King and team captain Bryce Taylor each have at least three – and as many as seven – full EuroLeague or EuroCup seasons under their belts. Moreover, there are the men in charge of two benches. Unicaja has Joan Plaza, who won ULEB Cup as a head coach of Real Madrid in 2007, and also took Cajasol Seville to the EuroCup final game in 2011 before losing to Unics Kazan. On the other bench, a former playing great and EuroLeague champion Sasha Djordjevic took Panathinaikos Athens to the EuroLeague playoffs last season and has had major success with the Serbian national team in recent years, having guided his native country's side to silver medals at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.
Bayern's rebounding dominance
Bayern has been the most dominant team when it comes to controlling the paint. Bayern ranks first in rebounding (39.4 rpg.) and fourth in offensive rebounding (11.6) this season, while allowing the second-fewest rebounds (31.1) as well. And it is the whole team that does amazing job on the boards. During the Top 16, out of 10 players who appeared in at least five games for Bayern, seven of them averaged at least 3 rebounds per game. Devin Booker was ranked second during that phase of the competition with 8.0 rebounds per game, and he is sixth for the entire season with 6.5 per night. Max Kleber is even better, ranking fourth for the whole season with 6.8 per contest. Unicaja got a boost on the boards with the arrival of Omic, who has pulled down 5 rebounds per game in three games since he joined the club from Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Apart from him, Carlos Suarez (4.7 rpg) is Unicaja's top rebounder to date.
Unicaja's three-point snipers
Bayern has the best perimeter defense in terms of holding opponents to league-low 31.9% three-point shooting, and it now goes against a Unicaja team that threatens from long range arguably more than any other team in the competition. Unicaja averaged Top 16-best 11 three-pointers made per contest while ranking third with 40.5% accuracy. Only one team attempted more triples than Coach Plaza's men during the Top 16. Also, Unicaja was one of only two teams in the Top 16, and the only that made it to the quarterfinals, that had as many as five different players – Adam Waczynski, Jamar Smith, Kyle Fogg, Alberto Diaz and Nemanja Nedovic - average at least 1.3 triples per game. They accounted for 81.8% of Unicaja's three-pointers in the Top 16, and together have hit more triples than seven other Top 16 teams, including Bayern. The German side has struggled so far, making 7.1 triples per game this season on 34.7%, lowest-ranked in both cases among the quarterfinalists. Bayern's numbers have been trending up, however. After the team made only 6.38 threes per game during the regular season, it has scored double-digit three-point shots in four of its last five games.