Zalgiris tops Milan in overtime
Zalgiris Kaunas needed an extra 5-minute period to get rid of AX Armani Exchange Milan 105-97 at Zalgirio Arena on Friday night. The game saw several ups and downs and lead changes until the hosts took a 10-point advantage in the last quarter that looked definitive for everybody except for Milan, which tied it 91-91 through Sergio Rodriguez with 13 seconds remaining. But Lukas Lekavicius stepped up big in overtime, scoring his only 4 points to open the extra period, before Zach LeDay and Nigel Hayes sealed the deal from the foul line. The hosts improve to 11-15 and remain one game below the playoff border, as Milan drops to the same record after its fourth straight loss. Hayes led Zalgiris in scoring with a career-high 21 points on 3-of-3 three-point shooting. LeDay followed him with 19 points, Thomas Walkup posted 18 points and 5 assists, Edgaras Ulanovas had 16 points, 6 boards and 6 assists and Jock Landale netted 14. Rodriguez set the pace for Milan with 18 points and 8 assists but couldn’t finish the game because of injury. Kaleb Tarczewski and Vladimir Micov also scored 18 each, while Drew Crawford and Keifer Sykes had 13 and 11 respectively in defeat.
Two opposite styles faced early on, as Zalgiris fed Landale and Paulius Jankunas inside while Milan found steady contributions beyond the arc as Micov made three triples in the first six minutes. Michael Roll made it 18-22, but Zalgiris got in front 27-25 at the end of the first quarter behind a layup by Karolis Lukosiunas. LeDay and Hayes respectively delivered a basket-plus-foul play and a corner three, capping a 10-0 run. Hayes remained hot as he drilled another three and added a three-point play to make it 39-30. Milan turned it around, 41-42, with a 2-12 run capped by a layup from Jeff Brooks. Hayes showed up from downtown again, preceding a 9-0 to close the first half at 53-44. Triples by Rodriguez and Crawford set the tone for Milan after the break, but Walkup replied from the same distance to keep Zalgiris calm. Then Rodriguez led a 0-9 run, capped by his triple, to put Milan back in front, 60-61. Blows were exchanged and leads traded until Walkup nailed a three-pointer to close the third period with Zalgiris prevailing 72-71. Zalgiris surged ahead with a balanced offense as five different players scored to establish a 86-78 lead with less than 4 minutes to go. Ulanovas made it a double-digit lead with a smooth left-handed hook shot that seemed to be definitive, but Milan fought back as Rodriguez sank a floater, Tarczewski hit four free throws and Sykes delivered a three and a layup to tie it, 89-89, entering the last minute. Walkup and Rodriguez traded baskets later to send the game to overtime, as Zalgiris couldn’t score from its last possession. Lekavicius started overtime by burying a triple and a free throw to make it 97-93. Crawford replied from deep to keep it tight, but LeDay scored a short jumper and Hayes added two points more from the line to set a 101-96 lead entering the last minute. Roll hit from the line to keep Milan breathing, but Hayes and LeDay didn’t tremble and their free throws secured another home win for Zalgiris.
What a scoring night
Zalgiris and Milan played an exciting, high-scoring, fast-paced and intensely contested game. Both teams showed great accuracy in shooting: the hosts finished with 61% in 2-point shooting, 50% from behind the arc and 83% from the free throw line, while the visitors also recorded good percentages: 59% in 2-pointers, 45% in 3-pointers and 78% in free throws.
Unbeaten at home in 2020
Zalgiris Kaunas remains in great shape after winning eight of its last 11 Euroleague games. The Lithuanian team has grabbed a victory in each of its last four home games by beating Milan, Olympiacos Pireaus, ALBA Berlin and Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. Zalgiris’ last home defeat came last year, on December 17, when it lost to Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
Lukas Lekavicius was not having his best night of the season, as he was unable to score a single point in regulation. But when Milan sent the game to overtime, the point guard became the clutch player by hitting a huge three and making a free throw to give his team confidence early in the extra period.
In Round 27 next week Zalgiris will host Khimki Moscow Region on Tuesday, March 3. Milan will play also at home, when it welcomes Real Madrid the same day.
Friday, February 28, 2020