Armani Jeans rolled over Power Electronics Valencia 69-80
Coming off back-to-back losses in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague, Armani Jeans Milano was able to get back on track Thursday night with a gutsy road win at Power Electronics Valencia’s home court, Fuente de San Luis Arena. Jonas Maciulis dominated with 26 points and 7 rebounds, Marius Petravicius added 18 points and David Hawkins recorded 17 points, 5 assists and 5 steals for the visitors. Head coach Piero Bucchi’s team now stands at 2-2 in Group D and is tied for third place with Efes Pilsen, who lost against Panathinaikos. Milano hosts the Greens next week. Valencia struggled against the visitor’s suffocating defense and dropped to 1-3 with a visit to Union Olimpija on tap next week. Rafa Martinez paced the hosts with 15 points, Jeremy Richardson and Florent Pietrus added 12 each and Nando De Colo scored 10.
Petravicius was finally able to dress up for the visitors, despite his questionable pre-game status, but it was Hawkins who carried the load early, as he traded triples with Rafa Martinez for a 7-7 start after Robertas Javtokas’s powerful dunk had set the tone for the hosts. With Hawkins and Martinez all set for a big square off at the guard position, both teams started looking inside to establish themselves offensively, as Petravicius and Dusko Savanovic traded close range buckets. The pick-and-roll was the play of choice for Milano after the game’s first timeout, as youngster Nicolo Melli entered the contest and Bucchi tried to give Valencia some different offensive looks with plenty of movement off the ball mixed in with some Hawkins low post isolations. Petravicius gashed Valencia’s defense with a couple of layups and soon it was 14-21 for the Italian side, prompting Valencia boss Manuel Hussein to call his first timeout. Nine first quarter turnovers for Valencia proved costly, as Hawkins finished the period with a fast break dunk off a Melli assist, setting Milano up, 14-23.
With only one turnover in the stat sheet to start the second, Bucchi’s crew continued taking care of the basketball and executing almost flawlessly in the half court as Maciulis hit his first three pointer only to the immediate response of Jose Simeon’s own triple for a 19-26 score. Although Valencia tried to move the ball swiftly on offense, Milano’s defense was all over the place, disrupting the flow and, with the offense not far behind, the visitors were able to build a 9-17 run in the second quarter. With a balanced attack, Valencia still shot the ball well enough, but Milano entered the break with a comfortable 28-44 cushion.
The second half did not start much better for Hussein’s squad, who committed another turnover to open it, although a quick triple from Omar Cook followed. Valencia opted then to shake things up with a zone defense and tried to run the fast break off defensive rebounds, but a triple by Ibrahim Jaaber kept the distance at 32-49. With Victor Claver and Cook quite silent on the scoring end for Valencia, the hosts crashed the offensive glass to try and claw themselves back into the game. But the shots just weren’t falling for Hussein’s side, and Milano stepped it up to distance themselves again, reaching a 34-61 margin after a beautifully executed alley-oop play by Hawkins and Jaaber and a pair of Stefano Mancinelli and Petravicius buckets. With the game seemingly out of reach, Hussein gave De Colo some playing time, and the guard pumped some life back into Valencia, even as Milano kept the defensive pressure on high, entering the final quarter with a 17-9 turnover advantage and 43-66 scoring lead.
With 10 minutes left to play, Richardson hit a quick three for the hosts and then scored off a rare Milano turnover to make it 6 points in a row once he hit the free throw for an 8-0 run from the end of the third quarter. With the deficit suddenly cut to 17 only a minute into the quarter, Bucchi called for time only to see Richardson narrow it further to 52-66 with a three from the corner. With the home crowd back in it, it was now AJ Milano feeling the heat and committing turnovers against the home side’s press. But in the thick of Valencia’s rally came Morris Finley to take command of the visiting point guard duties and pace his team back in control: a couple of layups by Hawkins and Mason Rocca and Finley’s own jumper made it a considerable margin of 55-72 once more, to which Petravicius added with another close range shot. Undeterred by the difference, Valencia kept at it until the end and so did Milano, who did not let up until reaching the 69-80 final.
Thursday, November 11, 2010