The last weeks before the FC Bayern Munich playoff series have been at times a disgusting roller coaster ride for the Fraport Skyliners and for a Philip Scrubb he might already have completed a short season ending vacation to Paris or secretly been in Munich for a meal with Marko Pesic concerning lucrative bucks for next season and been back in Ottawa where he is in the offseason and already getting up extra shots in preparation for next season had the club lost their last regular season home to Science City Jena which they were very close to doing after a seemingly curse was erased by the basketball God as three mishaps were rewarded by defensive stops and a Shawn Huff shot saved their season. Two weeks later the Fraport Skyliners aren´t at home digesting a second non playoff season and wondering where they would be with a Jordan Theodore, but are back at their basketball home Fraport arena with seemingly help from the basketball God again as they sit in the driver´s seat having an amazing and really unbelievable 2-1 game lead against Germany´s most famous sports club FC Bayern Munich and can end their season that had very high expectations on Tuesday with a victory. But then again is this really a miracle, because over the years Gordon Herbert has time in and time out shown what he can master even when the odds look bleaker than a tornado filled Oklahoma sky and produce success. He has showed again how he can get the best out of each player at the right moments and how his pinpoint scouting can bring an experienced and so talented team like FC Bayern Munich to unending riddles to how they can counter react when Frankfurt makes a successful adjustment. No matter how this series ends, the Fraport Skyliners should follow Science City Jena and do what they did for Bjoern Harmsen and give him a indefinite contract. He deserves it because he lives for the Fraport Skyliners even if his back would rather decline comment on the matter. Maybe Gordon Herbert is a basketball God in disguise. The last week, he surely has driven his team to go above and beyond, but can they make that last step and slam the door on this season best and most successful team FC Bayern Munich?
If there is anyone in Frankfurt basketball country that had the audacity to say now that they had predicted a Fraport Skyliners series win, they are most likely lying. I have been a staunch believer in the masterful work of head coach Gordon Herbert over the years, but as this series with FC Bayern Munich approached, I saw no hope in this team surviving against Jared Cunningham, Devin Booker, Danilo Barthel and co. I predicted an easy sweep by FC Bayern Munich and then corrected myself giving them possibly one win already remembering that the Fraport Skyliners had won games against FC Bayern Munich in the past and had won game 2 in their living room in the 2015 series. I just wanted to be on the safe side, but my inner thoughts were flooded with sweep, sweep, sweep for the Bavarian side. It was a normal basketball reaction from me as basketball reality was staring in my face. How could I predict a Fraport Skyliners series win after seeing Frankfurt stink up the house against Science City Jena and being crushed in Berlin as the team suffered one of it´s worst defeats in franchise history.
Anyone that seriously predicted a Frankfurt series win must have had connections with the basketball God and known something extra special that no one would ever have dared to sprout out of their mouths. I was so sure that the Fraport Skyliners had no chance of winning a 5 game series against FC Bayern Munich that I half-heartedly and unwantedly stated, but only because this time reality was stronger than any expertise scouting and special adjustments from Gordon Herbert that The Fraport Skyliners had about as much chance of winning this series as fans seeing pigs fly over the Fraport arena. Ok I´m sorry, I not only eat my words, but I salute Gordon Herbert and his players for this amazing two week turnaround. The Fraport Skyliners are for real and if they can win Tuesday, this series win will be up with the biggest accomplishments in their club history with their three titles, simply because no one expected it and the odds were totally against them. It will bring back memories to 2004 where they surprisingly upset Bamberg and in a way this upset be even bigger than their 2016 FIBA Europe Cup win, because everybody knew they would win after dominating the competition losing only one game. Everyone knew the Fraport Skyliners would win the Fiba Europe cup all the way from Jordan Theodore to every single member of the Fraport Skyliners dance team.
The first warning sign that a Gordon Herbert can change a team in the dumps and let it rise with ease should already have occurred after the last regular season game in Oldenburg where the Fraport Skyliners recovered within 48 hours after the Alba Berlin massacre with a solid 90-75 win securing the playoffs in a do or die game. The EWE Baskets didn´t actually pass as a formidable opponent in that game as they almost seemed like they played to lose, but still the Fraport Skyliners were making small steps in their late season push and development. The Fraport Skyliners had been so up and down in the last weeks that despite this win, that the signs still pointed to a playoff loss against FC Bayern Munich and was as clear to everyone as it is that Lebron James is the best player on the planet now. The Fraport Skyliners came to Munich and played a great first quarter and put a little scare into FC Bayern Munich CEO Marko Pesic, but then picked up their game as Frankfurt would score less points each quarter and at the end convincingly lost 85-72. The Fraport Skyliners had a long 4-5 hour bus ride back to Frankfurt and had a lot of thinking and soul searching to do. Perhaps the team got some inspiration from the Boston Celtics amazing run against the Philadelphia 76ers as they were producing the upset with a slim rotation, the absence of two superstars, but a cast of unselfish role players and best coach in the league with Brad Stevens something that Frankfurt has also had come to life in the Munich series. Frankfurt definitely had time to tune into the Celtics game on their phones as the game was being played as they were trying to digest the loss.
Gordon Herbert had 72 hours to devise a game plan for game two, make the needed adjustments and do extra scouting to hep refine the new game plan. In game 2 the Fraport Skyliners were reborn and with the nonstop support of the fans were at eye level with FC Bayern Munich and even a bit more as they controlled the game even if they never led by double digit points. The Fraport Skyliners were always a step ahead of FC Bayern Munich and did the important things a bit better hitting a few more three´s, getting a few more rebounds and coughing up the ball three times less and most importantly getting a few more stops. On top of that their biggest strength in game two was the ability to time in and time out to totally annoy FC Bayern Munich almost always hitting that huge shot just as they were clawing their way back. The importance of each shot made that trek back over the hump so much more difficult as they never really gave the momentum back to FC Bayern Munich. FC Bayern Munich head coach Dejan Radonvic has his share of grey on his scalp and most likely added some more after this loss. The other strength in this game was how well the Fraport Skyliners responded to sharing the ball and not letting it be a Scrubb and Webster two man show. Scrubb was limited in the first half and finished with 15 points, but so many other guys stepped up with Shawn Huff, Isaac Bonga and Jordan Sibert combining for 34 points. Especially Isaac Bonga is like reborn. One can count his best games on one hand this season with Jena, Goettingen, Bremerhaven, Ulm and Munich in game two. He is making a late season push in his game and stepped up like a veteran as Webster put up the big goose egg, but also was hindered in his play getting hurt in game 2 playing only 14 minutes. When a Mike Morrison hits his first career trey in his professional career then you know the basketball God is on your side.
Even with this gigantic victory in game two, people weren´t sold yet, at least I wasn´t. I expected the series to go it´s normal course now with FC Bayern Munich winning like usual at home and then coming back to Frankfurt on Tuesday and overpowering them and closing out the series. How wrong I was. Not only did the Fraport Skyliners come back strong in Munich, but they won in spectacular fashion after being down 39-25 at the break and withstanding a 19 point deficit and winning in crunch-time 86-83. It was Frankfurt´s first win in Munich in their 11th try and came when they needed it most. Where was that Philip Scrubb type player in Crunch-time when FC Bayern Munich needed him most? As in the last years, that clutch big time player was missing. Instead it was Philip Scrubb that hit the big shot with 18 seconds left and made Marko Pesic sink a bit more in his seat and was wondering why he didn´t have a Scottie Wilbekin or Philip Scrubb more on his radar in the off season. The first half was how everyone had expected and a bit more as FC Bayern Munich played their game and Frankfurt was hit with a blow as Gordon Herbert got two technical fouls and had to depart at the break. Assistant coach Klaus Perwass took over and did a great job in the second half playing the Herbert role and keeping the team focused, getting that never give up mentality into their heads and just making the right calls time in and time out and his players executed with authority. In a way this amazing second half turnaround should have been no surprise to basketball insiders as Perwas belongs to one of the most experienced BBL assistant coaches and one could say is that right hand most head coaches would always love to have on their side, but only do in their dreams. Perwas could have been a head coach since years somewhere in the BBL or elsewhere, but feels more comfortable in the assistant coach role. In game three, he was the unsung hero in Munich.
In the third quarter, FC Bayern Munich was able to take some of that momentum from the first half and Gordon Herbert disqualification and extend their lead to 19 points. But the Fraport Skyliners will and courage not to leave the floor as losers was too great as they didn´t slowly chip away at their deficit, but attacked and attacked netting 29 points and tying the score at 54-54. From then on it was that much desired playoff battle with an intensity that everyone loves and and another reason why Uli Hoeness can always smile knowing he made the right decision in giving basketball a chance in Munich years ago. Both teams fought back and forth and even in the last minute when FC Bayern Munich led, Frankfurt never sunk their heads, but just were in a magnificent basketball rush as the basket looked as big as a pool and achieving a bucket was almost as easy as standing on the beach and hitting the ocean blindfolded. FC Bayern Munich couldn´t stop the dangerous scoring duo of Scrubb and Webster that combined for 35 points and especially hat´s off to the latter who recovered from his game two blues and bruises and came up huge in a must win atmosphere. Again the Frankfurt role players stepped up again as Shawn Huff netted 12 points and Jonas Wolfarth-Botterman produced 13 points. One of the biggest winners so far in this series has been Quantez Robertson. He is playing his best basketball offensively this season. He had a good stretch at the end of December where he scored in double figures four times and is at four again now. He scored 18 in Oldenburg and in the Munich series has added 14 points twice and 12 points. His trey had been suffering a bit this season, but not in the last four games as he is 13/24 and in the Munich series 7/17 and a reliable outside option again. Stats are always a fascinating aspect to reflect on especially after a win like this since FC Bayern Munich got to the line a whopping 38 times third most in BBL history, while Frankfurt only had 16 attempts plus the home team had six more possessions
With 1,50 minutes remaining in the game and the 81-78 FC Bayern Munich lead seeming like an eternity until the end as many Bayern Faithful in the loud Audi Dome must have been wondering when will this damm game would finally end as the Fraport Skyliners continued to battle as if this was a game 5 of the 2018 BBL finals. Even Mike Morrison and Scrubb misses from close didn´t deter the club´s drive and will to win this game. Webster who had found his stroke again from the parking lot connected with 41 seconds remaining, but only 15 seconds later ex NBA player Jared Cunningham scored and the mighty FC Bayern Munich had the 83-81 lead and Frankfurt had to answer again or they were going home down 2-1. With Frankfurt with the ball and the crunch-time atmosphere so thick that one would have needed more than a sharp knife to cut through it, everyone in the arena must have known who was getting the ball. Either Marko Pesic was covering his eyes now not caring what anyone thought as his heart bleeds FC Bayern Munich red, or he was speculating some more what price it would take to get Scrubb in Munich this summer with a heroic task by the Canadian. As everyone expected in the arena, Scrubb hit a clutch three and Frankfurt had the lead again 84-83 with 18 seconds remaining. Was that the last straw or did FC Bayern Munich have another answer in this unforgettable game? FC Bayern Munich actually did with a Braydon Hobbs who had been the hero in the 87-83 regular season win where he entered the game as game changer, but this time he did almost everything right. He hit a three for the seemingly game three win, but the only problem was that he was standing on the line which resulted in a turnover. Quantez Robertson then nailed free throws for the 86-83 lead. Cunningham attempted a last desperation three to send the contest into OT, but was denied. FC Bayern Munich haven´t been the team that they should be and definitely haven´t developed further since the coaching change especially on defense as some tweaks here and there have produced little success. Their defense isn´t what it once was as the team has allowed 80 points or more 9 times since the coaching change. If they weren´t such an explosive offensive team, they would have never finished in first place. The body language between head coach Radonjic and his players is as strange as it is why a Brydon Hobbs sits on the bench more than he should. Reggie Redding´s role has drastically changed from the dominant point forward to the ebergizer from the bench. The insecurity of the players and Radonjic is seen time in and time out during time outs. All in all, FC Bayern Munich has been a disappointment since the coaching change. If FC Bayern Munich season ends against the Fraport Skyliners then it will have been the coaching change that cost them most. That was the biggest mistake the club made this season and something that will cause a major rebuilding scenario this summer.
Even if it was a great team win from the Fraport Skyliners with special help from Klaus Perwas, it was Philip Scrubb again that made a huge shot something he has done his whole career starting at Carleton(CIS) and has continued with the Fraport Skyliners since he arrived there in January 2016. It is no secret that there have been too many games to mention that wouldn´t have been won had he not been so successful with his bread and butter his overwhelming and lethal sniper qualities where every shot he puts up has to by now be a nightmare for every opposing coach, because rarely is a Scrubb shot a bad miss, but moreover than not a good miss and so close to going in that your on the edge of your seat watching each time. With the Fraport Skyliners up 2-1 in games and ready for the kill in game 4 on Tuesday, one has to wonder has Philip Scrubb passed the Pesic FC Bayern Munich screen test for next season or will that last needed push be needed in game four? One thing is for certain, if FC Bayern Munich get ousted by Frankfurt in the playoffs, it will be a very difficult offseason for the Bavarian team. They may have won the 2018 German cup, but FC Bayern Munich stands for tradition, titles and being the best. They haven´t been the best for years with their last BBL league title in 2014. A big reason for that has been not having that reliable crunch-time scorer that can always get his team out of a jam and over the hump. FC Bayern Munich were a favorite in the Eurocup, but let a Scottie Wilbekin dash their hopes putting up a two game Steph Curry like clinic dropping 65 points and now with Scrubb hitting that big crunch-time shot in game three that has turned around the series and given Frankfurt the momentum. Wilbekin fits the FC Bayern Munich profile well, but he is a little above Scrubb now and most likely will land in the NBA or with Turkish Euroleague team Fenerbahce, while Scrubb fits the profile a bit better as the next step for him would be a FC Bayern Munich type team as the NBA and Euroleague are surely options for him soon, but for now it´s one step at a time for Philip Scrubb. It will be a big surprise if Scrubb isn´t on FC Bayern Munich´s shopping list this summer with or without Marko Pesic on board. At the moment Scrubb´ number one focus is leading the Fraport Skyliners to a win in game four. Another question is can FC Bayern Munich individual qualities that have been in the shadow of the Fraport Skyliners fighting mentality in the last two games something they will be able to adjust better to? For Fraport Skyliners fans coming to the arena on Tuesday will be a fun and exciting thing, because there hasn´t been so much hope for success in the last two years until now. Of course winning the FIBA Europe Cup was exciting, but beating FC Bayern Munich is something different and more than unexpected. For many it will be like a miracle if the Fraport Skyliners can get by FC Bayern Munich, but for Gordon Herbert it will be just be another logical step in the playoffs run for him. The only sad thing will be even if the Fraport Skyliners win, it will only be a small side note in Frankfurt sports as all are gearing up for the football cup final in Berlin next Saturday. Wouldn´t it be a delight if both the Fraport Skyliners and Eintracht Frankfurt won. In both cases it would be a major upset beating FC Bayern Munich twice in a weak. The Fraport Skyliners are on a good way and in football terms in the 70th minute with the lead and need to make the final step. The Fraport Skyliners have shown that anything is possible against FC Bayern Munich in the last week, something that Eintracht Frankfurt might be able to register in their minds as they prepare themselves for FC Bayern Munich and the cup final. For the football team beating FC Bayern Munich is like a dream and Christmas presents for the next 10 years while for the Fraport Skyliners it isn´t a dream, but a very possible reality.