An inspired Armani Jeans Milano gave new coach Sasha Djordjevic a welcoming present on Thursday as it handed visiting Group B power Maccabi Tel Aviv its worst Euroleague loss this decade, 94-71. The victory saw Milano improve to 4-8 and keep its slim hopes of reaching the Top 16, while Maccabi slid to 8-4 and a first-place tie with Efes Pilsen. Maccabi would finish as group champ if they remain tied through the end of the regular season. Preston Shumpert led Milano with 21 points, while Dante Calabria and Claudio Coldebella added 16 apiece. For Shumpert and Coldebella, the tallies represent season-highs. Coldebella had a perfect night from downtown, scoring all of his four attempts from beyond the arc. Giacomo Galanda added 11 points for the winners. Maccabi, playing without star center Nikola Vujcic, got 22 points from Anthony Parker, 11 from Derrick Sharp and 10 each from Sharon Shason and Will Solomon.
Calabria opened the scoring with a three and Galanda and Shumpert added scores as Milano raced out to a 7-0 start. Sharon Shason broke the silence for Maccabi by tipping in a missed Maceo Baston layup, but Shumpert hit a mid-range jumper and a free throw to push Milano's advantage to 10-2. Calabria added a bank shot while Maccabi turned over another ball forcing coach Pini Gershon to call an uncharacteristic timeout after just four minutes of play. Milano went inside to Joe Blair to make it 14-2, before Jamie Arnold and Anthony Parker each made a pair of free throws to help the visitors climb back to 15-6 at the midway point of the quarter. Veteran Coldebella and Calabria beat Maccabi's 3-2 zone with back-to-back triples as the lead reached 15. Coldeballa fired one in again from beyond the arc in response to free throws from Shason and Yaniv Green to make it 24-8. Tyrone Grant exploited a mis-match against Derrick Sharp for an easy layup, before Shason scored Maccabi's first triple to make it 26-13 as the first quarter.
Calabria opened the second quarter like the first, drilling an eight-meter bomb, and Shason answered by slashing to the basket. When Grant took a pass from Shumpert to finish a fastbreak, the hosts went up by 20, just two-and-a-half minutes into the period. Arnold and Shumpert exchanged baskets, but Maccabi soon improved its shooting and back-to-back triples from Tal Burstein and Sharp to cut the margin to 38-24. Parker capped a 12-3 run for the yellow-and-blue with an astonishing dunk to cut the gap to 39-28, but Galanda's answer came from downtown to put Milano back on top by 14 with two minutes left before the half. Will Solomon drove to the rim for a hoop and Parker and Green added points from the foul line to reduce the Milano advantage to 43-35 at halftime, the closest Maccabi had been since the opening minutes.
Parker scored two free throws to open the scoring in the second half, but Maceo Baston then picked up his fourth foul, leaving Maccabi short-handed upfront. Shumpert answered in the paint and then Bulleri used a full-court pass to Blair for two easy points to push the Milano cushion back to double figures. Bulleri capped an 8-0 run as the lead swelled to 51-37. Parker netted just one of his free throws, and Bulleri and Shumpert came up with back-to-back threes as the lead grew to 57-38 with six minutes left. Parker, the only man scoring for the visitors, tried to keep his side in the game, with a mid-range jumper, but an acrobatic Calabria jumper put Milano up by 20 (60-40). Solomon nailed an open three-pointer, Parker a contested jumper, and Solomon stole a ball to find easy points keeping their side alive at 61-47. Milano missed a pair of open shots and Parker found Solomon open for a three as the comeback continued and Tel Aviv trimmed the gap to 62-52. After a Parker turn-around jumper, it seemed that Maccabi had captured the momentum, but back-to-back Coldebella threes boosted MIilano to 68-54. Green reduced the deficit to 68-56 at the end of the third.
Bulleri and Parker exchanged points to start the fourth before Sharp drilled a triple to make it 70-61. But Sharp returned the double-figure Milano advantage when he committed a foul on Bulleri as he scored from downtown. Shumpert stole the ball and sent Galanda down court for a dunk that extended the lead to 78-61. A minute later, Shumpert sealed the win with a triple from the corner and two easy points in the open court that made it 83-63. Milano looked unstoppable and scored twice for its biggest lead (87-63) with Coldebella and Galanda before Shason put the ball in the basket for Maccabi. Shumpert converted a three-point-play before the last few minutes developed into garbage time allowing Djordjevic to enjoy his coaching debut.
Thursday, January 26, 2006