Fenerbahce locks up first place in Milan
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul clinched first place for the regular season by downing AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan 90-104 at Mediolanum Forum on Thursday. Fenerbahce locked up first place with a 24-5 record. Milan dropped to 14-15 and ranks eighth, but may still drop lower depending on other results. Ali Muhammed led the winners with 23 points, Nikola Kalinic added 22, Erick Green and Luigi Datome each had 12 and Melih Mahmutoglou 10 for Fenerbahce. James Nunnally paced Milan with 26 points, Curtis Jerrells added 20 and Vladimir Micov had 15 for the hosts. Muhammed scored 13 points in the first quarter to give Fenerbahce a 17-22 lead after 10 minutes. He later beat the halftime buzzer with a triple that made it a double-digit lead, 42-52. Milan managed to get within 66-69 early in the fourth quarter, but Datome and an unstoppable Kalinic took over early in the fourth quarter as Fenerbahce built a 78-96 margin and never looked back.
Muhammed got Fenerbahce going with a three-pointer and a backdoor layup, but Micov and Nunnally quickly tied it at 5-5. Kaleb Tarczewski dunked and a fastbreak layup by Micov gave Milan its first lead, 9-7. Muhammed struck from downtown and added a floater in a 0-9 run highlighted by Ahmet Duverioglu's dunk. Micov buried a triple and Nunnally brought the hosts within 14-16. Three-pointers by Muhammed and Datome boosted the guests' margin to 17-22 after 10 minutes. Jerrells buried one from beyond the arc early in the second quarter, but back-to-back layups by Kalinic made it a 6-point game. Mindaugas Kuzminskas tried to change things for Milan and a wild four-point play by Nunnally tied it at 30-30. Mahmutoglou and Green downed respective three-pointers off a timeout and Marko Guduric added a driving layup. Muhammed scored again and Nicolo Melli made it a double-digit game, 32-42. Guduric and Green joined the three-point shootout, but Jerrells and Nunnally got Milan within 42-49. A buzzer-beating triple by Muhammed fixed the halftime score at 42-52. Nunnally stepped up for the hosts right after the break and brought his team a bit closer. Muhammed silenced the crowd with another three-pointer and jumpers by Melli and Datome made it 52-63. Mike James found his first points and Micov downed a jumper. They got help from Nunnally and Jerrells to give Milan hope at 61-67. Micov struck from downtown and James got the hosts even closer, 66-69. Sinan Guler and Datome boosted the visitors' lead to 68-73 after 30 minutes. Kalinic took over with consecutive baskets early in the fourth quarter and Mahmutoglou added a catch-and-shoot three-pointer for a double-digit Fenerbahce lead, 70-81. Guler scored off a steal, prompting Milan to call timeout at 70-83. Nemanja Nedovic struck from downtown and James added a tough driving layup, but Fenerbahce kept a 76-87 margin with 6 minutes left. Datome buried another three-pointer and an outstanding Kalinic allowed Fenerbahce to seal the outcome at 78-96 midway through the fourth quarter as the visitors cruised to a well-deserved win.
Nikola Kalinic made the difference in the fourth quarter with a career-high 22 points. He made 7 of 9 two-point shots and 8 of 9 free throws. He added 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 7 fouls drawn for a performance index rating of 26, which is also a new career-high.
The start of the fourth quarter allowed Fenerbahce to seal the outcome. Milan had trimmed its deficit to 68-73, but back-to-back baskets by Nikola Kalinic, a three-pointer by Melih Mahmutoglou and a layup off a midcourt steal by Sinan Guler restored a 70-83 margin that Milan could not overcome.
Fenerbahce took much better care of the ball, finishing the game with 16 assists and just 8 turnovers. On the other hand, Milan had 11 assists and 16 turnovers, 12 of them in the first half. Those extra 8 possessions were critical in the final outcome.
Did you notice?
Fenerbahce scored 104 points, the second-best mark since head coach Zeljko Obradovic joined the team, despite playing without its best two scorers, Jan Vesely (13 ppg.) and Kostas Sloukas (11.6 ppg.). Fenerbahce previously scored 106 points against Darussafaka on January 22, 2016.
Both teams reach the end of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season next week. Milan visits Anadolu Efes Istanbul on Thursday. Fenerbahce hosts Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv on Friday.
Thursday, March 28, 2019