EA7 Milan celebrates playoff berth by beating Fenerbahce Ulker
A day after clinching a playoff spot without playing, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan celebrated by holding off Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul 73-82 on the road Friday night to get a step closer to securing home-court advantage in the next stage. Milan improved to 9-3 and is in sole possession of second place in Group E, while Fenerbahce diminished its playoff chances by dropping to 5-7 and a share of fifth place. Milan started pulling away when Gani Lawal scored 10 points in the second, including three highlight-reel dunks, and Curtis Jerrells orchestrated a 3-13 run that opened Milan’s 12-point lead. The visitors held a 29-38 halftime advantage, before opening the third quarter with 3 consecutive triples en route to a 42-62 lead. Fenerbahce used its defense to rally; Bojan Bogdanovic, Bo McCalebb and Luka Zoric cut the deficit, but the hosts never got closer than 5 points the rest of the way. In the absence of Turkish Airlines Euroleague leading scorer Keith Langford, it was David Moss who paced Milan by scoring 12 of his 15 points in the second half. Alessandro Gentile netted 13 with 7 rebounds and 4 assists, Lawal finished with 12 points plus 7 rebounds, Daniel Hackett scored 11, while Samardo Samuels added 10 points in victory. Bogdanovic netted 24 and had career-high 3 blocks for Fenerbahce. McCalebb scored 17, Nemanja Bjelica collected 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Emir Preldzic finished with 11 points plus 7 rebounds.
First quarter: Melli’s triples halt Fener’s good start
Bogdanovic scored a floater and a layup to get things started, before Samuels’s big dunk opened Milan's account. Fenerbahce's zone defense launched Bo Mccalebb into a breakaway, and his dunk made it 6-2. Daniel Hackett drove for a layup on the other end, but Nemanja Bjelica and Emir Preldzic scored from close range to make it 10-5. The lead reached 7 when Luka Zoric got a lucky bounce on a short jumper, as the hosts’ defense did not allow any open looks and kept the visitors without a basket for almost four minutes until Nicolo Melli sank a corner triple. Melli added another one from downtown to get within 13-11, before running a fast break and tying the game with a layup. But Bogdanovic made sure the hosts finished first quarter with a lead, sinking a tough jumper as Fenerbahce held on 15-14 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Milan pulls away behind Lawal’s monster dunks
Lawal had a monster dunk to open the second quarter, and Curtis Jerrells sank a three-pointer to make it 15-19. After a timeout, Preldzic made a put-back, and after a layup from Gentile, Bogdanovic drove for a layup in traffic to close the gap to 2. However, Milan got many second chance opportunities, and with two of those – a dunk from Lawal and a layup from Gentile – started opening up a bigger lead. Milan’s full-court pressure caused three turnovers from Linas Kleiza, too, the last one leading to an easy layup from Jerrells, before Lawal’s hook-shot made it 19-29. Bogdanovic nailed a three-pointer for Fener, but Lawal slammed home another one for the visitors. Lawal added a block on the defensive end, before a three-pointer from Moss made it 22-34. Bogdanovic hit another one from downtown, but Lawal continued his dunking show after a no-look pass from Jerrells. Before the break, the hosts brought the deficit back into single digits with Bjelica making a pair of free throws going coast-to-coast for a dunk, making it 29-38.
Third quarter: Obradovic ejected, Milan extends lead to 20 points
Moss opened the third quarter with a triple, and after a layup from Zoric, Moss hit another one to make it 31-44. Bogdanovic answered right back with his third long range shot, but Samuels also hit from downtown, Milan’s third triple in as many possessions. McCalebb scored a layup, but Samuels’ layup-plus-foul extended it to 36-50, and a disqualifying foul to head coach Zeljko Obradovic helped the visitors extend the lead more with free throws. Fenerbahce started playing with more purpose and aggressiveness, but as Bjelica and Bogdanovic hustled for layups, Gentile hit a jumper, then added a corner triple, before a put-back from Samuels made it 42-62. After a timeout, McCalebb and Hackett traded buckets, but Preldzic scored 4 points, then Zoric scored twice inside to cut it to 52-64. In the final minute of the eventful quarter, Lawal had another put-back, Bogdanovic drove for a layup for Fenerbahce, and Hackett had enough time to go the length of the floor and bury a buzzer-beating jumper for a 54-68 Milan lead.
Fourth quarter: Fener rallies with defense, but Milan prevails
Kristjan Kangur and Bogdanovic traded three-pointers at the start of the fourth quarter, before Bjelica and McCalebb scored layups, cutting it to 62-71. The hosts’ defense held Milan without a field goal for more than seven minutes, but Milan also stepped up defensively. McCalebb drove for a layups twice, cutting it to 67-72 inside the last two minutes, but Moss nailed a baseline jumper to end the drought and give Milan more breathing room. Preldzic and Kangur each split free throws and Milan entered the final minute leading 69-76. McCalebb made a reverse layup, but Hackett also scored both foul shots, before more free throws from Moss and Jerrells sealed the outcome.
Friday, March 28, 2014