Credit: Begum Unal/BasketNews
Credit: Begum Unal/BasketNews
Credit: Begum Unal/BasketNews
Credit: Begum Unal/BasketNews
Credit: Begum Unal/BasketNews
Credit: Begum Unal/BasketNews
Credit: Begum Unal/BasketNews
Credit: Begum Unal/BasketNews
Credit: Begum Unal/BasketNews
Credit: Begum Unal/BasketNews

As usual, the voice of Audi Dome arena, Thomas Killian, greeted the visiting teams in their native languages.

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"Labas vakaras," he said before the tip-off against Zalgiris Kaunas and "Bonsoir!" to visiting AS Monaco.

After that, it was time to introduce the home team, FC Bayern Munich, which made their comeback to the EuroLeague after a two-week break. Killian's voice was clear and loud while screaming all the players' names. All the lights and introductory video were turned on, but there was one key difference.

6700 seats Audi Dome arena was empty and without fan presence. And it's been like that for a while. The last time Bayern had their fans in the EuroLeague home game was against LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne on December 2. However, even then, due to strict restrictions in Bavaria, only 481 people attended the game.

Knowing that it's been more than a month since Bayern are playing without fans, how has the team adapted to these circumstances?

"It's obvious that we didn't adapt," Andrea Trinchieri said after the loss against Monaco. "We are lacking some energetic place, and it comes with adrenaline that the fans give."

In a game against Monaco, at least a few moments made to think how everything would have been with fans inside Audi Dome.

Corey Walden was unstoppable in the first half. In 14 minutes, he accumulated 17 points (5/7 3PT, 2/2FT), 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal, 3 drawn fouls, and 21 PIR.

He scored only 2 points in the third quarter but still finished the game with a career-high 26 points (3/3 2PT, 5/10 3PT, 5/5 FT), 2 rebounds, 5 assists, a career-high 4 steals, and a career-high 34 PIR.

Player of the Game
Mike  James
EFF
23
Mike James
Points 26
Accuracy 10-17
Rebounds 4
Assists 6

It was an amazing performance, but could it have been even better with fans in the house? Possibly.

Another moment was at the very beginning of the third quarter. Deshaun Thomas made a mind-blowing putback slam and tied the score at 40. In normal circumstances, the fans would go crazy and give the boost of adrenaline Trinchieri was talking about.

The reality? Monaco answered with an 8-0 run and Bayern never tied the game again.

However, Bayern had their chance. With 2:57 left, Monaco were leading 76-70, and Sasa Obradovic decided to give a little break for Mike James.

The hosts did brilliantly stopping Monaco's attacks and defending their own basket. The problem? Bayern couldn't score themselves for more than a minute. Walden converted both free throws with 1:29 left, but moments later, James made an incredible dagger 3-pointer and closed the game.

Again, would fans have made the difference? We will never know the answer, but it makes you wonder if that could have become a game-changing moment in normal circumstances. 

Asked about this decisive stretch, Trinchieri brought another reasonable problem for his team.

"I believe that we don't have every player in the same shape. But the game preparation was done in order to be there one or two possessions behind. The thing is, when you give 16 points to one player out of the game plan, then it's hard. We could have executed better, but we were not fresh enough at the end," Italian said.

Trinchieri at least a few times emphasized the fact that Bayern had the game against Zalgiris 48 hours ago, while for Monaco, it was the only game in this double week.

"I believe that we did everything we could. We played 48 hours ago, and it was a double week for only one team. We didn't have the right energy at the end, but we controlled the boards, dished more assists, had fewer turnovers. 

Everyone will think we lost because of Mike James, but when I play against Mike James, I always prepare for his 25 points," Trinchieri noted.

For Monaco, it was the first game in the EuroLeague after a two-week break. Before this double week, Bayern also had two weeks off in the EuroLeague, but at the same time, their return was marked with two games in 3 days.

"We had a great effort, we played hard, we played like a team, we played 48 hours ago, and this is a factor," Trinchieri said. "With all the suspensions of games, it's difficult to play every 48 hours or to rest (for a long period) and come to play. It's totally different."

"We are the only team in EuroLeague that plays without fans, and it's a huge problem," Trinchieri continued. "It's also a problem that we had a game 48 hours ago, while opponents didn't. There are a lot of things going on that are bigger than the game, bigger than coaching or playing (basketball), and I have to cope with that."

Bayern played seven home games without fans in all competitions and won three of them (vs Anadolu Efes, Ludwigsburg, and Zalgiris).

So, what is it like to be a visiting team without feeling extra pressure from fierce home fans?

"It's scary to even look at the picture in the press room with all those fans," Obradovic answered after the game. "I know pretty well that this crowd can change the game, referees' decisions, and in this kind of gym, players' confidence can easily grow."

"It's a very acoustic and loud arena. Apart from our longer preparation for this game, the absence of the fans is also another factor," admitted Monaco's head coach.

With Covid cases in the Bavaria region increasing, it's hard to expect fans' return to Audi Dome anytime soon. Therefore, to keep their playoffs hopes alive, Bayern will have to adapt one way or another.

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Miuncheno Bayern
Monako Basket
48%
29/61
Field goals
58%
30/52
29
Rebounds
27
14
Assists
12
6
Steals
3
0
Blocks
1
9
Turnovers
11

Best players

Corey  Walden
26 PTS
8/13 FG
5/5 FT
Mike  James
26 PTS
10/17 FG
1/3 FT
Augustine  Rubit
7 REB
6 DREB
1 OREB
Donatas  Motiej┼źnas
5 REB
4 DREB
1 OREB
Corey  Walden
5 As
0 TO
29 MIN
Mike  James
6 As
4 TO
35 MIN
Corey  Walden
34 EFF
100% 2P%
50% 3P%
Mike  James
23 EFF
50% 2P%
71% 3P%