Milan survives Zalgiris rally, 98-92
AX Armani Exchange Milan ended its two-game losing streak by rolling up the points to defeat visiting Zalgris Kaunas 98-92 at home in Mediolanum Forum on Friday. The hosts built a 20-point lead early in the third quarter behind terrific shooting accuracy from behind the arc, but Zalgiris never waved the white flag and managed to tie 77-77, with 6 minutes to go. A key three-pointer by Sergio Rodriguez, followed by 8 points of its last 12 points by Malcolm Delaney, allowed Milan to improves to a 4-3 record. Zalgiris, meanwhile, collected its fourth loss straight and drops to 5-5. Kevin Punter led the winners with 22 points and a career-high performance index rating of 29. Zach LeDay followed with 20 points and 6 boards against his former team, while Shavon Shields, Malcolm Delaney and Kyle Hines scored 17, 13 and 10 respectively. Lukas Lekavicius tallied 16 points for Zalgiris. Rokas Jokubaitis had 15 on the day after his 20th birthday, while Augustine Rubit chipped in 13 and Marius Grigonis 10 in defeat.
LeDay's 6 points in a row followed by a contested trey by Punter gave the hosts an early 9-3 lead. Zalgiris reacted quickly after a timeout thanks to Joffrey Lauvergne and Steve Vasturia, who combined for 9 points and a 12-12 tie. Milan turned to Shields on offense, but Zalgiris took off on a 2-11 run behind triples from Grigonis and Jokubaitis to lead 21-25 after one quarter. Punter scored 5 points and fed Vladimir Micov for a corner trey to return a 31-27 edge to the home side. Milan kept rocking as Hines and LeDay scored inside to finish an 11-0 run to a 35-27 advantage. Shields, LeDay and Delaney soon drilled triples to extend the margin 46-33. Even though Zalgiris forced a couple of turnovers to score easy layups, back-to-back treys by Shields and Rodriguez kept the hosts in charge 52-40 at halftime. Punter came out of the break with 8 points in a row to which Shields added acrobatic reverse layup to put Zalgiris against the ropes, 62-42. The visitors didn't panic, though, turning an unsportsmanlike foul into 5 points in a 0-7 run that reduced the margin to 62-49. Milan restored a double-digit margin, 69-56, but Zalgiris raised its defensive level and Rubit took over inside to allow Zalgiris to enter the last quarter trailing 73-64. The hosts looked paralyzed as Lekavicius and Rubit filled a 4-13 run that tied the score at 77-77 for a brand-new game with 6 minutes to play. Vladimir Micov came to the rescue with a tip-in but when Thomas Walkup hit a three, Zalgiris was within 83-82. Rodriguez and Delaney showed up big from behind the arc to make it 89-82 for Milan, but it still wasn't Zalgiris last word. Jokubaitis and Nigel Hayes kept the game on the wire, 91-87, until Delaney took over with a contested layup and a difficult pull-up jumper to build a 93-87 gap that the visitors were not able to contest.
Threes saved the day
Milan shot extremely well from deep, collecting 13 triples on 25 attempts. Their long-distance accuracy included hitting 7 of 8 threes in the second quarter to reach halftime leading 52-40. Then, in the last quarter, when Zalgiris dissolved a 20-point disadvantage, back-to-back triples by Sergio Rodriguez and Malcolm Delaney in crunch time helped Milan hold off Zalgiris.
Don't let them run
Milan trailed 21-25 at the end of the first period, mainly because they were unable to stop Zalgiris from getting 10 fastbreak points already. The hosts managed to adjust their defense and allowed just 15 points in the second quarter to outscore the visiting team 31-16.
Good to be back
Kevin Punter made his Euroleague debut with Milan this week after missing one month and a half because of injury and became a key factor. He was the game's top scorer with 22 points and showed up in key moments: first, to bring Milan back early in the second quarter, and later, to boost his team's lead to 20 points, 62-42, by scoring 8 points in a row right after halftime.
Not the perfect celebration for Jokubaitis
Rokas Jokubaitis turned 20 the day before the game, and he celebrated it with his best EuroLeague scoring performance to date: 15 points on 3 of 6 two-pointers, 2 of 3 threes and 3 of 3 free throws. He was one of the key players who helped the visitors to rally from a 20-point deficit in the second half, but couldn't fully celebrate as his team came up short in the end.
In Round 11 next week AX Armani Exchange Milan will travel to Israel to challenge Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv on Thursday, November 26, while Zalgiris Kaunas will return to its place to host Zalgiris hosts Zenit St Petersburg the same day.
Friday, November 20, 2020