All three times that FC Bayern Munich has previously visited AX Armani Exchange Milan, the games went down to the wire and each was decided by a single basket. One of the key matchups when they meet again on Thursday in Round 21 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season will be the backcourt play pf Milan’s Sergio Rodriguez and Bayern’s Wade Baldwin IV.
Rodriguez is a 34-year all veteran who has seen it all and done it all in the EuroLeague. A former EuroLeague MVP, he is a two-time continental champion, having lifted the trophy with Real Madrid in 2015 and with CSKA Moscow in 2019. “El Chacho”, as he is known throughout the EuroLeague, ranks third all-time in assists (1,319), sixth in three-pointer made (462), eighth in points (2,951), and 12th in steals (238).
Baldwin has taken on an expanded role with Bayern in this, his second EuroLeague season. Given that opportunity, he has wowed people not only with his ability to score, but also with his explosiveness and athleticism in coming up with some of the biggest dunks of the season.
This is the third time Rodriguez and Baldwin will play against each other, but their first matchup at Medionlanum Forum in Milan.
Last season, when Baldwin was making his EuroLeague debut with Olympiacos Piraeus, he scored 8 points in less than 11 minutes on the floor of the Reds’ 91-70 victory over Milan. Rodriguez had 14 points and 3 assists in defeat that night.
In the season-opener for both teams this season, Milan edged Bayern 79-81 in Munich after overtime with Rodriguez contributing with 9 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds in 24 minutes. Despite the loss, Baldwin showed his readiness to embrace a larger role with Bayern by posting 18 points on 7-for-10 two-point shooting, 4 assists and 3 steals.
When looking at their head-to-head stats, it’s easy to notice that Baldwin has not had a single rebound in two games against Rodriguez and Milan, and dished a total of just 4 assists. That’s compared to the 4.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds averaged by Rodriguez in those games. But a larger contribution on Baldwin’s part in those two aspects of the game can be predicted because he averages 2.8 rebounds this season, a number that jumps to 4.2 over the last seven games. In 20 appearances averaging more than 27 minutes on the floor, he also posts 4.0 assists and ranks fifth in the EuroLeague with 1.3 steals per game.
On the other hand, Rodriguez has played 20 minutes per game this season in a role off the bench and is averaging 4.7 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists. Rodriguez ranks fifth in the EuroLeague with 9.4 assists per 40 minutes, proving how productive he is in Milan’s backcourt and how much he means to the team.
The roles of the two players differ the most when it comes to scoring and shooting the basketball. While Rodriguez has far better percentages in both two-point and three-point shooting, Baldwin’s field goal attempts are more than double than those of Rodriguez this season. And while Rodriguez pulls the trigger from long range far more often, Baldwin has attempted almost five times as many two-point shots as the Milan point guard.
Baldwin has attempted third-most field goals of any EuroLeague player this season, which has helped him total more points than all but five players. The Bayern guard averages 14.2 points per game, which ranks 10th, and his average PIR is 12.2. On the other hand, despite significantly fewer minutes on the floor and fewer than half Baldwin’s field goal attempts, Rodriguez still posts 10.0 points per game for an average PIR of 12.0.
The two are due to have a big impact on Thursday’s clash, which both enter tied on 12 victories with Zenit St Petersburg, which plays earlier in the evening against Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Should Zenit lose, either Milan or Munich can find itself alone in fourth place — or possibly tied for third, should Real Madrid lose at Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv — by the end of the night. If that winner is Milan, Rodriguez & Co. will have swept Bayern this season, took, taking an all-important tiebreak edge in the final stretch of a tight playoff race. Baldwin, of course, will lead the visitors in trying to make sure that does not happen.