Milan downs Zalgiris, gets first win
AX Armani Exchange Milan registered its first win of the season by edging Zalgiris Kaunas 85-81 at home on Friday. Milan improved to 1-1 in the standings while Zalgiris dropped to 0-2. Sergio Rodriguez led the winners with 17 points. Jeff Brooks added 14, Vladimir Micov 13 and Luis Scola 11 for Milan. Thomas Walkup led Zalgiris with 19 points off the bench. Marius Grigonis added 13 and Jock Landale had 10 for the guests. Brooks, Scola and Micov shined early to give Milan a 23-7 lead after 10 minutes. A 0-10 run that Lukas Lekavicius capped with a three-pointer brought Zalgiris to within 23-17 early in the second quarter. Zalgiris kept pushing, scoring 29 points in the second quarter, but Rodriguez and Scola kept Milan ahead, 43-36, at the break. Walkup and Paulius Jankunas helped Zalgiris get a bit closer, 64-59, at the end of the third quarter. Zalgiris managed to get within 81-79 in the game's final minute, before free throws by Micov and Rodriguez sealed the outcome.
A corner triple by Brooks and a dunk by Kaleb Tarczewski gave Milan a 5-0 lead. Then Scola struck from downtown, forcing a Zalgiris timeout. Aaron White's three-point play soon ignited a new Milan run of 10-0 in which Micov followed a three-pointer with a jumper to make it 20-4. Arturas Milaknis and Brooks traded bombs from beyond the arc to fix the score at 23-7 after 10 minutes. A jumper by Milaknis and a three-point play by Zach LeDay helped Zalgiris start its own 0-10 run, which Lekavicius capped with a triple at 23-17. Scola rescued Milan with a couple of baskets but LeDay and Nigel Hayes brought the guests even closer, 27-23. Rodriguez struck twice from downtown and added a jumper, getting help from Tarczewski to boost the lead back to double digits, 37-26. Lekavicius and Jankunas were joined by Walkup as Zalgiris clawed to within 43-36 at halftime. Tarczewski and Amedeo Della Valle each hit a jumper right after the break for Milan, but Lekavicius and Landale kept Zalgiris as close as 47-41. Rodriguez stepped up again with a floater and no-look assist to Paul Biligha, boosting the Milan advantage to 55-43. Jankunas and Grigonis started a new Zalgiris run that Hayes capped with a triple for a 55-50 score. Zalgiris found a new go-to guy in Walkup but Della Valle and Michael Roll kept Milan ahead, 64-59, after 30 minutes. Jumpers by Roll and White forced another timeout by Zalgiris, at 68-59. Walkup kept scoring but Rodriguez, from downtown, and Scola, on a put-back, made it 73-63. However, Walkup followed a three-point play with a driving layup to keep Zalgiris alive at 73-70 with 6 minutes left. Micov stepped up with a reverse layup and Roll added a jumper that gave Milan fresh air, 77-70, with over 3 minutes left. Landale scored twice in the paint and Grigonis followed a three-pointer with a turnaround jumper as Zalgiris got to within 81-79 with 25.6 seconds left. That's when Micov and Rodriguez made free throws to put Milano's victory on ice.
Rodriguez made the difference with a great performance, finishing the game with 17 points by making 2 of 3 two-point shots, 3 of 4 threes and 4 of 4 free throws. He added 6 assists for a PIR of 24.
Seven unanswered points by Walkup allowed Zalgiris to get within 73-70 with 6 minutes remaining. However, Milan improved its defense then, holding Zalgiris scoreless for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, a reverse layup by Micov and a baseline jumper by Roll gave the hosts a 77-70 lead. It came down to free throw accuracy, but those minutes of good defense gave Milan control down the stretch.
Milan shot the ball better, hitting 50% of its attempts from downtown (7 of 14) and 56.4% inside the arc (22 of 39). Zalgiris hit 50% of its two-point shots (21 of 42) and 35.3% from downtown (6 of 17).
Did you notice?
Walkup had a career-best performance, setting new personal record in scoring (19) and PIR (24). He had 17 of his 19 points in the final 14 minutes of the game, keeping Zalgiris close until the final seconds.
Both teams return for Round 3 on Thursday, October 17. Zalgiris welcomes still-undefeated Real Madrid at 19:00 CET. Milan visits Panathinaikos OPAP Athens at 20:30 CET.
Friday, October 11, 2019