EA7 Armani edged Partizan 66-72
A classic showdown on Thursday night in Pionir Arena took place for a Top 16 spot, and when the dust settled EA7 Emporio Armani Milan had topped hosting Partizan mt:s by 66-72 in the Game of the Week. Milano needed at least a 4-point win to make the Top 16 and it happened in the last minutes. Partizan was leading by 11 points, 42-41 in the third period, but a huge zone defense by Milano allowed them to come back and complete the upset to deprive Partizan of a Top 16 spot for the first time in six seasons. As such, Group C finishes with Milano and Partizan tied for fourth place at 4-6, but the tiebreakers give Milano the edge. Malik Hairston led the winners with his 18 points, Omar Cook added 17 and Ioannis Bourousis chipped in with 13. For Partizan, Dragan Milosavljevic led the way with 14 points, Milan Macvan added 13 and 11 boards and Miroslav Raduljica and Rasko Katic posted 11 apiece.
As it could be no other way, an impressive atmosphere at Pionir Arena welcomed the tip-off and soon it was to be seen that defenses would be working hard.
Miroslav Raduljica got the first basket for Partizan but then, several trips for both sides to the line helped the score build up to 5-5 as Malik Hairston
was stepping up for Milano. Dragan Milosavljevic blasted a three for the 8-5 but the guests were starting to find their pace in offense through Hairston and
then Drew Nicholas hit a long jumper to tie again, 9-9. After a timeout, Milano came out strong and Hairston's new three gave the guests their first lead of
the game, 11-12. Partizan was looking inside to the likes of Milan Macvan and Rasko Katic in order to recover the lead, and they did. Depsite having a hard
time from the free throw line at 3 of 8, Katic scored a new one for 16-14 and then Dusan Kecman had a freeway to go in thanks to Katic's screen to make it
18-14 after 10 minutes.
The second quarter continued with strong defenses. Acie Law managed to hit a runner to launch Partizan again, and then Mason Rocca and Macvan traded free
throws for a 21-15 edge for the hosts. Omar Cook found himself open and took a clean jumper to keep Milano in the game. Macvan was still the referent of the
hosts in all places, but then Hairston managed to hit a jumper with foul. He missed but Partizan failed to box out the rebound and that allowed Antonis
Fotsis to hit a clean three for 24-22 and a new timeout. With good work in rebounds, Partizan picked up the pace again. Cook and Milosavljevic traded threes
for 31-27. With 3 seconds to go and a timeout, Milano put the ball inbounds, but Cook fumbled it and Milosavljevic was there to get the ball and blast a far
three that sent the stands into a frenzy and the game into the break, 36-29.
Partizan started the third quarter with six free throws to make it 42-31 for the double digit lead, but with Hairston with four fouls with 7 minutes to go in
the quarter, Cook took responsibility. With a three-point play and a triple, the score was 43-39 all of a sudden. Fotsis joined in to make it 45-41, and Drew
Nicholas pulled up for a 4-point play for the 48-45. Partizan was out of its rhythm in offense and Milano was using it to its advantage. Stefano Mancinelli
scored to make it a one-point game, and after Law gave Partizan some air, Il Mancio was back for the attack with a new basket through perseverance. Partizan
was not finding open spots for a shot due to the guests' defense and Ioannis Bourousis worked his way up to the basket to leave Milano ahead after 30
Bourousis also opened the last period with a three to effectively put Milano in the Top 16 thanks to a 4-point lead, 50-54. After a few hesitation, Macvan
finally blasted a three for Partizan to fire it all up again and make it a one-point game again, 53-54. However, Bourousis took it personally and kept on
working in the paint to keep adding baskets, making it 54-59 again with six minutes to play. The crowd in the stands started pushing more and more and
Partizan obliged with a couple good plays inside by Macvan and Katic to make it a one-point game again, 58-59, despite the strong zone displayed by Milano.
Dusan Kecman went all the way inside for a layup in the middle of the Milano defense, but Hairston's answer was a three to keep the guests ahead, 60-62. The
game entered its last two minutes with Partizan stuck on Milano's zone and the guests pulling away to 60-66 after Mason Rocca was left alone in the paint for
a layup. Kecman knew he had to act fast and hit a bucket but Rocca kept his head cold to hit twice from the line and the 62-68 in the last minute. Katic went also to the line to hit both attempts, and with 47 seconds to go Milano was in the Top 16, 64-68. Hairston approached the basket but missed twice. The problem for Partizan was that both times Milano took the offensive board and Fotsis took the ball out for Cook, who was fouled with 16 seconds to go. Cook hit both attempts for 64-70. Law went to the line in the other side with 11 seconds to go. He only managed to hit one of the two attempts and a timeout was called. Cook also went to the line to hit only one, but Law copied him in the next play for 66-71 and 7 seconds to go. In the last play, Mancinelli was fouled and went to the line. He scored one only again with 5 seconds to go for 66-72. In the last possession, Partizan found the three-point shot it needed to earn a Top 16 spot, but Danilo Andjusic missed the shot to send EA7 Emporio Armani to the Top 16.
Thursday, December 22, 2011