Armani Jeans Milano saved its first Group B victory of the season for a very old rival by edging Aris TT Bank 70-77 in Thessaloniki, Greece on Thursday. Milano broke its four-game losing streak and improved to 1-4 in the Group C standings. Meanwhile, Aris dropped to 3-2 and joins a three-way tie for the third place in this group with Efes Pilsen and Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv. Dusan Vukcevic paced the winners with 21 points. Ansu Sesay and Melvin Booker each added 16, Danilo Gallinari had 10. Travis Watson grabbed 16 rebounds for Milano. Aris was led by Jeremiah Massey and Bracey Wright, who each had 16 points. Simonas Serapinas and Hanno Mottola added 11 each for Aris, whose playmaker Terrell Castle sat out in the second half. Milano played close to perfection in the opening quarter, as Sesay, Watson and Booker pushed the guests to an 11-26 lead. Milano did not trail after that, but Serapinas and Massey - pushed, as usual, by the unbelievable Aris home crowd - fueled the hosts' comeback in the final quarter. Aris got within 70-73 in the final seconds but Vukcevic hit a free throw and soon buried a corner triple that sealed the outcome with 4.3 seconds to go, allowing Milano to escape with a very valuable road win.
Vuksevic and Watson used a good pick-and-roll get Milano on the scoreboard first. The visitors chose zone defense from the beginning and Aris missed its first couple of attempts before Wright nailed a jumper for 2-2. Galinari and Sesay combined for 5 straight points, however, to give Milano a 2-7 lead. The guests remained in control as Booker added 5 consecutive points of his own to make it 4-12 and force an Aris timeout. The hosts continued to face huge trouble against the zone, though, while Booker's drive provided the first double-digit lead, 4-14. Wright offered an offensive solution to Aris with a three-pointer, but Vuksevic soon copied him while Sesay and Watson increased Milano's lead to 9-22. Massey connected on an offensive rebound for Aris, but Watson and Vuksevic kept rolling as Milano led 11-26 after 10 minutes.
Milano's excellent ball movement resulted to an easy layup by Casey Show before Mottola and Massey tried rousing Aris with shots in the paint. The guests were still ahead by 17 points, 32-15, and by that time had made an incredible 10 of 11 two-point shots and 4 of 8 triples. A jumper by Mottola and a triple by Serapinas brought Aris to within 23-33 as the hosts seemed to be adjusting finally to Milano's zone. The visitors now had trouble getting open shots, too, as the Aris defense tightened. Massey sank free throws to get the difference down to single digits, 25-33, but Booker answered with a baseline jumper for Milano. Aris had some momentum, however, so when Wright fired in a triple, the hosts were as close as 31-37, and when Serapinas beat the buzzer for halftime, the same difference remained, at 35-41.
Galinari and Wright exchanged long-range bombs to open the third quarter, then Vuksevic and Serapinas did the same as the score climbed in threes to 41-47. Vuksevic wasn't done, and fired in yet another triple, so that when Booker made a fade-away jumper, Milano had rebuilt its double-digit lead to 41-52. Aris reacted immediately, however; Mottola nailed a three-pointer and Massey dunked impressively to draw their team within 46-52. Sesay stepped up for Milano now; his 5 points in the row made it 46-57 before Giorgios Kalaitzis popped in a triple for Aris at 49-57. Milano still managed to handle the scoreboard as Sesay and Galinari combined to make it 51-62 before another Kalaitzis three-pointer left a 54-62 score after 30 minutes.
Reyshawn Terry connected with a basket-plus-free throw and Dimitris Tsaldaris nailed a triple to rally Aris to within 59-62 less than a minute into the last quarter. Vuksevic stood up for the guests then, scoring 4 straight points to preserve Milano's lead at 59-66, and then Galinari added a tip-in to the advantage. Tsaldaris created room for a layup before another Milano tip-in, this time by Watson, had the guests sitting pretty at 62-70. Mottola and Booker exchanged points before Wright scored 3 in a row for Aris to lower the difference to 67-72 with 1:20 left to play. Sesay hit 1 of 2 free throws next, but soon Wright got a basket and a free throw for Aris to make it a whole new ballgame, 70-73, with 25 seconds remaining until the final buzzer. Vuksevic hit 1 of 2 free throws to keep Aris more than one possession from the tie, and when Terry missed a three-point attempt, the game was over; Milano celebrated its first win of the season by disappointing its old rival and host, Aris.
Thursday, November 22, 2007