Alba Berlin and FC Bayern Munich before a duel in the basketball Bundesliga

Alba Berlin and FC Bayern Munich before a duel in the basketball Bundesliga

Wif Alba Berlin FC Bayern Munich this Saturday evening (8.30 p.m. on Magentasport) in the basketball Bundesliga for a duel between the title contenders, both teams have already played a total of 98 games for the season. Traditionally, mental and physical exhaustion is particularly pronounced in February, so the big rivals should be happy to have put this difficult month behind them.

But just because March has now begun on the calendar does not mean that the problems will be resolved in the spring air. The loads remain just as high without the regeneration times increasing. That will not change until the start of the play-offs in the Bundesliga. The main round of the Euroleague ends in mid-April, and at the moment there is little to suggest that Berlin and Munich will be among the top eight, who will then play the champion.

Duels with the Belgrade clubs

Nevertheless, there is no chance for the players to take a little breather, as the Bundesliga has terminated two games a week on the home stretch. It will be about who is better able to recover from the many small and large injuries and to recharge the currently empty batteries.

On Thursday, both teams played in the Euroleague against the Belgrade clubs, whereby it fits into the current picture that the Berliners had to do without five other regular players in addition to the permanently injured Marcus Eriksson in their 74:88 defeat at Partizan. However, Bayern managed their first success after four defeats in this competition with the 87:80 against Red Star. The Munich team called up an energy performance in the last quarter, which was probably only possible because the Bundesliga had paused the previous weekend.

Two weeks ago, the two top dogs met in Semi-finals of the German Cup in Oldenburg on each other. The Munich team prevailed 83:77 and then secured the title by beating the hosts in the final. Their generally more pragmatic approach has served them well at this stage of the season, as has their different tactical orientation.

Bayern play slower than Berlin, defend less aggressively and only in exceptional cases across the entire field. The style of the capitals requires a higher expenditure of energy. The entire team, but especially the key players, lacked freshness in this semi-final. Luke Sikma, the spiritual leader of the Berliners, seems mentally exhausted for the first time since moving from Valencia in 2017.

Despite deep squads, some failures simply cannot be compensated for. How irreplaceable for example a Maodo Lo is at the highest continental level as a difference player, proves his performance immediately after the cup, when he led the Berliners with 24 points at Red Star Belgrade after six defeats to a victory in the European premier class.

Although Bayern were able to celebrate their well-deserved cup success, their worries did not diminish that weekend. With Augustine Rubit, their most consistent player to date, was injured so badly that he will no longer be used this season. A replacement is said to have already been found in Zylan Cheatham (a total of five NBA games for New Orleans and Utah).

Captain Vladimir Lucic has missed 33 games so far, national player Andreas Obst as well as veteran Othello Hunter almost 20. Even if top performers are deliberately rested in one or the other match, these numbers prove the dilemma. The players are at and above the limit. Injuries and inconsistency are the logical consequences.

In the last three Bundesliga games, Bayern have averaged just 74 points and 14 assists. While the offensive stalled in Munich recently and the defensive worked, it was exactly the opposite in Berlin. Apparently, at the current stage of the season, they lack the power to get the maximum from both ends of the field.

At the very latest in the play-offs this will be mandatory again. Because it’s not just about defeating your archrival. In fact, with the Telekom Baskets Bonn, a serious third championship contender has now appeared on the scene. With the signing of returnee Javontae Hawkins earlier in the week, the Rhinelanders not only reacted belatedly to Jeremy Morgan’s injury.

Rather, this transfer is to be understood as a declaration of war on the established favourites. On the one hand, the people from Bonn are aware of their qualities, but also recognize the size of the opportunity in view of the enormous signs of wear and tear in the Berlin and Munich paintwork.

The author is a two-time Coach of the Year.

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