James sparks Milan to sweep of Olympiacos
AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan took a big step towards a place in the EuroLeague Playoffs with a 66-57 win over visiting playoff-chasing rival Olympiacos Piraeus on Thursday night. Behind 27 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds from Mike James, Milan won its second game over Olympiacos this season to improve to 14-12 and sixth place in the standings, while Olympiacos dropped to 13-13 in the eighth place. Vladimir Micov was the only other double-digit scorer for the hosts with 13 points, while Kaleb Tarczewski and Jeff Brooks each had 10 rebounds. Nikola Milutinov collected 13 points plus 9 rebounds, Nigel Williams-Goss had 11 points and Sasha Vezenkov scored 10 in defeat.
Milan got off to a great start with Micov, James Nunnally and James combining to scored 13 consecutive points in scoring on six of seven trips down the floor. A triple from James made it 13-2. Milutinov had a pair of dunks to cut into the deficit, but James and Micov made sure Milan held a 19-10 lead after the first quarter. A corner triple from Kostas Papanikolaou got Olympiacos going at the start of the second, but baskets were few and far between. Olympiacos dominated the offensive boards and held Milan to just 4 points in the quarter. The hosts did not score in the final 5:17 of the half, but all Olympiacos could generate was a jumper from Briante Weber and a close-range basket from Papanikolaou to tie it at 23-23 going into halftime. Milan started the third quarter in another gear on offense, scoring 6 points in 85 seconds before a triple from James made it 34-25. Williams-Goss got it going with a triple and a runner and Milutinov had a three-point play to cut within 38-35. James scored 7 points before the end of the quarter, including a last-second triple to end the third quarter at 49-39. Early in the fourth, Micov, James and Brooks all hit from long range, with James turning his into a four-point play, to extend the margin to 59-43. Vezenkov and Williams-Goss gave the visitors hope, but Micov scored on a fast break and James took it to the basket to open a 66-53 margin with 2:09 to go, which all but wrapped up the game.
Mike James was instrumental in the second half, scoring 18 of his 27 points in the last two quarters. He also had no assists in the first half, but 6 in the second.
Scoring highs and lows
Milan needed 4 minutes and 20 seconds to open a 13-2 lead to start the game, but then scored just 10 points the rest of the half. After halftime, Milan needed 85 seconds to score 6 points and posted 26 points in the third quarter, more than in the entire first half.
Overcoming a record-low
It is rare that a team wins a game in which it set a record-low in points, like Milan which scored just 4 points in the second quarter. Milan had never previously scored fewer than 7 points in a quarter in any of its 238 EuroLeague games.
Milan entered the game allowing the third-most offensive rebounds - 11.2 per game. Olympiacos had 11 offensive rebounds by halftime, but just 1 in the second half.
Injury instead of milestone
Vassilis Spanoulis came off the bench in the first quarter, needing 11 points to become only the second player in EuroLeague history to reach 4,000 points. However, Spanoulis injured his right ankle with 5:43 left in the second quarter and spent the rest of the game at the end of the bench cheering on his teammates.
Round 27 tips off on Tuesday, and that's when Olympiacos will host another playoff-chasing rival, FC Bayern Munich. A day later, Milan will visit Real Madrid, which has already secured home-court playoff advantage.
Thursday, March 14, 2019