Baskonia celebrates 500th game with rare triumph in Milan
TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz marked its 500th game in the EuroLeague by beating AX Armani Exchange Milan 86-79 on Wednesday night at Mediolanum Forum. The win, which boosted Baskonia's record to 7-8 this season, ended a seven-game losing streak in Milan dating back to 2012. Baskonia led by as many as 16 in the fourth quarter before Milan scored 9 unanswered points and rallied to within 2 in the final minute. Pierria Henry stepped up for Baskonia with a basket-plus-foul to clinch the win. Zoran Dragic paced the winners with 16 points, Henry tallied 15 points and 8 assists, Tonye Jekiri posted 12 points and 12 rebounds, Rokas Giedraitis scored 11 and Youssoupha Fall 10. Kevin Punter led Milan with 15 points, Malcolm Delaney added 12 points and Luigi Datome scored 11. The loss dropped Milan's record to 9-6.
Baskonia took control with the game's first 6 points before Shavon Shields got going with 7 straight of his own to give Milan the lead. Tadas Sedekerskis's three-pointer gave Baskonia a 7-11 edge midway through the opening quarter. Delaney and Kyle Hines helped Milan close the gap, but the hosts had no answer for Fall, who scored inside on three consecutive possessions to make it 13-21. Threes by Datome and Sergio Rodriguez got Milan within 19-23 after 10 minutes. After a three by Datome got the hosts within 1, Giedraitis scored the next 5 points and Dragic extended the difference to 24-32 midway through the second quarter. Punter heated up to twice get Milan within 4, but Fall and Dragic kept Baskonia in control. Delaney's second three of the game made it a 1-point game only to see Alec Peters end the half with a triple that gave the visitors a 41-45 lead.
Baskonia opened the second half with both of its top point guards on the court together and Henry and Luc Vildoza fueled a 0-7 surge to establish the game's first double-digit lead, 45-55. Shields and Datome soon halved the Milan deficit, but baskets by Vildoza and Henry kept Baskonia rolling. Rodriguez sank a three-pointer to bring the hosts within 57-63 through three quarters. Jekiri completed an alley-oop finish and Peters scored 5 quick points as Baskonia stretched its lead to 59-70. A deep three by Vildoza gave Baskonia even more confidence and the lead reached 63-79 on free throws by Jekiri. Vildoza fouled out with 4 minutes remaining and Milan scored 8 straight points before Baskonia called timeout. Punter split free throws to make it 72-79 with 2 minutes remaining. Jekiri sank a mid-range jumper, but Milan was now hot; Delaney buried a three with 1 minute left that made it 77-81. Michael Roll's first basket got his team within 2 with 32.7 seconds to go. Henry attacked the Milan defense for a three-point play with 11.3 seconds on the clock to all but seal the victory.
The momentum was all Milan's after the hosts trimmed a 16-point deficit with 4 minutes left to 79-81 with 32.7 seconds to go. It needed a defensive stop and it would have the ball with a chance to force overtime – or win with a three-pointer. Baskonia turned to Pierria Henry, who wound the clock down before attacking the basket, drawing a foul and scoring, ultimately putting his team up 5 and clinching the win.
A victory eight years in the making
The win was Baskonia's first in Milan since October 2012, when it grabbed an 85-95 victory at the same arena. Milan had captured seven straight wins in games between them since. Coach Dusko Ivanovic was also on the Baskonia bench for that game; he is the only member of either team who was also involved in that game.
Baskonia outshot Milan from all distances, making 61.1% of its two-pointers, 47.4% of threes and 76.5% of free throws. The home team was 43.9%, 42.9% and 70% from the corresponding distances. The visitors' 24 assists were 10 more than what Milan had.
Baskonia returns home to close out 2020 next week when it hosts Valencia Basket on Tuesday, December 29. Milan will also play at home in Round 30. It meets CSKA Moscow on Wednesday night.
Wednesday, December 23, 2020