Barcelona dominates in Milan
FC Barcelona took a big step towards home-court advantage in the playoffs by downing AX Armani Exchange Milan 56-72 at Mediolanum Forum on Friday. Barcelona improved to 22-8 and has a three-game gap over fifth-ranked team FC Bayern Munich (19-11) with four games left. Milan dropped to 19-11 and is now placed fourth. Nikola Mirotic led the winners with 15 points. Adam Hanga added 11 while Nick Calathes had 11 assists. Shavon Shields led Milan with 10 points but none of his teammates scored in double digits. Barcelona led 12-15 after 10 minutes and used a late first-half run to boost its margin to 29-38 at halftime. Mirotic and Hanga took over after the break, as the guests got a 42-54 margin late in the third quarter and kept controlling the game through outstanding defense until the final buzzer.
Vladimir Micov got Milan going with a jumper but Alex Abrines bettered it with a triple and Cory Higgins scored in transition for a 2-5 Barcelona lead. Zach LeDay and Micov each buried a jumper but Pierre Oriola scored twice in the paint to keep the guests ahead, 6-9. Brandon Davies followed a jump hook with a reverse slam off a steal but Jeremy Evans and Luigi Datome combined for all the points in a 6-0 run that brought Milan within 12-13. Rolands Smits scored down low to fix the score at 12-15 after 10 minutes. Evans struck from downtown early in the second quarter. Davies banked in a close shot, Shields found his first points and LeDay hit a jumper to give Milan a 19-17 edge. Hanga took over with a driving layup and Mirotic hit a three-pointer but Kyle Hines and Shields kept the hosts in charge, 25-22. Hanga scored again and Abrines struck from beyond the arc in a 0-7 run that Mirotic capped with a jump hook for a 25-29 score. Mirotic sank his second triple and got help from Higgins and Oriola to make it a nine-point game, 29-38, at halftime. LeDay, Shields and Kevin Punter each downed jumpers after the break but Higgins and an unstoppable Mirotic made it a double-digit game, 35-45. Mirotic scored again and Hanga followed a wild step-back triple with a layup, good for a 40-52 Barcelona lead. Evans stepped up with a tip-in, Hanga answered with a jump hook and LeDay kept Milan within 44-55 after 30 minutes. Smits scored in the paint early in the fourth quarter and Claver added a backdoor layup to break the game open, 44-60. Leo Westermann struck from beyond the arc, as Milan went scoreless for over 4 minutes until Riccardo Moraschini downed a jumper. Kyle Kuric answered with a fast break layup and Claver hit a close shot that sealed the outcome, 46-68, with 4 minutes remaining.
Nikola Mirotic was arguably the best player on the floor and made the difference at the right moment. He finished the game with 15 points on 4-of-5 two-point shots and 2-of-4 three-pointers, adding 5 rebounds, an assist, a steal and 3 fouls drawn for a PIR of 22.
Milan led 25-22 late in the first half but Barcelona found its regular go-to guy in Mirotic, who struck twice from downtown in a 4-16 run in which Alex Abrines also downed a triple, Adam Hanga and Pierre Oriola each scored around the basket and Cory Higgins buried a jumper to give the visiting team a 29-38 lead at halftime, switching the game's momentum.
Barcelona kept Milan to very low shooting percentages in this game. Milan hit 15-of-39 shots inside the arc (38.5%) and only 2-of-15 from downtown (13.3%). Milan also picked up 17 turnovers, way over its season average (11.1).
Did you know?
Nick Calathes had more assists (11) than the entire Milan team (9). Calathes is averaging 7.1 assists this season, but has dished 25 in two games against Milan (12.5 apg.).
On Friday, March 26, Milan visits TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz at 19:00 CET, in a critical game in the playoffs race. Later on that night, 21:00 CET, Barcelona hosts ALBA Berlin. ALBA head coach Aito Garcia Reneses, who led Barcelona to nine Spanish League titles and three EuroLeague Championship Games, among other highlights, returns to Palau Blaugrana.
Friday, March 19, 2021