CSKA wins in OT to extends winning streak
CSKA Moscow survived an overtime thriller to beat AX Armani Exchange Milan 87-91 at Mediolanum Forum on Wednesday night. In a close game that saw several ties and no double-digit leads, the visitors relied on a former Milan player, Daniel Hackett, to seal a valuable win that extended their winning streak to 12 games and improved their record to 14-3 atop the standings. Milan lost its second home game in a row and dropped to 9-7. Nikola Milutinov led the winners with a monster double-double of 17 points and 19 rebounds to set a new Euroleague record for offensive rebounds with 16. Mike James and Johannes Voigtmann followed him with remarkable double-doubles, as the former recorded 20 points and 11 assists, and the latter tallied 13 points and 12 rebounds. Hackett scored 19 points. Milan was paced by Zach Leday, who had 21 points to lead four scorers in double-digits. Kevin Punter, Malcolm Delaney, Shavon Shields and Kyle Hines provided 17, 14, 13 and 11 points, respectively, in defeat.
Milutinov got CSKA going with a tip-in and a couple of dunks for an early 3-6 lead. The hosts answered with Punter and Luigi Datome hitting from outside, before LeDay's turnaround jumper made it 9-8 after 5 minutes. The hosts' lead vanished soon, though, as CSKA delivered 3 consecutive buckets in the paint for a 9-14 edge. Both squads started to rotate, which Milan used better when Hines and Leday combined for an 8-3 run that tied it at 17-17 after 10 minutes. While Milutinov kept dominating the offensive glass, the visitors could not transform it into real profit, as the score remained even for a while. Hackett then took over and Janis Strelnieks followed with a triple to make it 21-26. Free throws by Milutinov, Hackett and Voigtmann extended the margin to 25-31, which prompted Milan to switch to zone defense in an attempt to protect the rim and improve its defensive rebounding. Even though it worked fine in the beginning, James showed with an alley-oop assist and a long three that built a 27-36 margin. The hosts managed to prevent CSKA from escaping too early thanks to the duo of Sergio Rodriguez and Hines, who reduced the gap to 33-39 at halftime.
LeDay and Toko Shengelia challenged each other and swapped baskets right after the break. The latter then committed his fourth foul, and this seemed to awake Milan. LeDay scored the first triple of the night for the hosts, while Shields and Punter followed him with another each to tie the game at 48-48 midway through the third quarter. Milutinov and James replied quickly, but Punter remained hot and connected twice from long range to keep the balance. Datome capped the rally with a turnaround jumper to put the hosts in front, 55-53, although Voigtmann and James emerged from behind the arc for a 58-59 CSKA lead after 30 minutes. Both repeated soon after, the latter with a tough bank shot and the former with a corner three to keep CSKA ahead, 60-64. Milan gave Punter a rest and struggled on offense for a while until Delaney and Rodriguez joined together to bring the home team back on top, 67-66. James replied promptly with a bucket, right before the game turned into a free-throw competition. Milutinov got CSKA ahead 77-79 with 26 seconds left, but Delaney tied it with a tough jumper over him with just 11 seconds remaining. James and Hines had the chance to seal the win for each side but could score just one each to send the game to overtime.
James and LeDay exchanged free throws early in the extra time, but the visitors found a long jumper by Nikita Kurbanov and a triple from Hackett to amass a valuable 82-87 advantage with less than 3 minutes to go. Even though LeDay went to the line again, Hackett showed no mercy against his former team and came up big with another corner three right after a jump ball that established an almost definitive lead, 84-90, entering the last minute. He would later add a free throw that sealed the outcome to allow CSKA to celebrate its 12th win in a row.
In a duel in which several players faced their former team, it was Daniel Hackett who deserved the spotlight thanks to an incredible run in overtime. He scored CSKA’s last 7 points, including key back-to-back three-pointers in the last 3 minutes, to confirm his team’s 12th victory in a row.
Forgiveness from the line
Mike James and Kyle Hines had the opportunity to close the game before overtime, but both missed key shots from the line. James drew a foul from Malcolm Delaney with 2 seconds left and hit the first free throw, but then missed the second on purpose hoping to run out the clock. But his shot didn’t touch the rim. That gave Milan a chance to find a game-winning play, which ended up with Hines being fouled under the rim. Hines missed the first and scored the second, sending the game to overtime.
What a birthday celebration
Nikola Milutinov set a new Turkish Airlines EuroLeague record by grabbing 16 offensive rebounds. The Serbian center was twice as happy as he did it on his 26th birthday.
Milutinov was not the only one to celebrate, as his team also set a EuroLeague record for offensive rebounds (30) and fell short of doing so in total rebounds. CSKA got 60, only behind the 62 boards Arka Gdynia pulled down on December 13, 2012, against another Italian opponent, Montepaschi Siena.
In Round 18 next week, AX Armani Exchange Milan and CSKA Moscow will salute the new year on the road, both in Spain. The latter will face TD Systems Baskonia in Vitoria on Thursday, January 7, while the former will travel to Madrid to challenge Real the day after.
Wednesday, December 30, 2020