Milan turns to offense, sinks Panathinaikos
AX Armani Exchange Milan registered consecutive wins for the first time in more than two months after delivering its best offensive performance of the season, beating visiting Panathinaikos OPAP Athens 96-87 on Thursday night at Mediolanum Forum. Both teams now have 10-8 records this season, but Milan earned the tiebreak advantage for sweeping the Greens. Milan led for the majority of the night and pulled away for good with a 10-0 run late in the third quarter. Sergio Rodriguez netted 22 points in victory and Keifer Sykes finished with 17 points on 3-for-6 three-point shooting in 16 minutes. Riccardo Moraschini scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half and Vladimir Micov scored 11 in victory. Jimmer Fredette paced Panathinaikos with 28 points, DeShaun Thomas scored 15, Dinos Mitoglou had 10, while Nick Calathes dished 11 assists in a losing effort.
Fredette nailed a triple before Calathes and Georgios Papagiannis connected on an early alley-oop dunk to help open a 2-8 lead, but Rodriguez scored twice from close range before Michael Roll and Moraschini hit from long range to put Milan in front 16-14. The teams traded leads a couple more times in the first quarter before Moraschini opened the second with a three-pointer and a fastbreak dunk. Tyrese Rice answered with a three-pointer of his own, but Rodriguez and Moraschini drove inside to increase the margin before another three-pointer from Roll opened a 33-25 cushion midway through the second. Jacob Wiley sparked the Greens' 0-6 run, but Vladimir Micov and Rodriguez nailed back-to-back threes and Micov added another one to cap an 11-2 run for Milan and make it 44-34 at halftime.
The visitors cut into the deficit in the third by going inside early on before some long-range fireworks. Fredette and Mitoglou hit from downtown for Panathinaikos, but Rodriguez answered twice for the hosts to make it 58-49. Calathes set Mitoglou up for a fastbreak dunk and Fredette made a floater to make it 61-55. Milan scored the next 10 points, with Sykes knocking down back-to-back triples, and the hosts led 73-57 going into the final quarter. Sykes scored 5 more points, including another triple, to increase the margin to 17 points, before triples from Mitoglou and Thomas kept Panathinaikos's hopes alive, 80-68. After a timeout, Rodriguez beat the shot clock with a three-pointer, and Arturas Gudaitis had 5 points, including a three-point play that opened a 91-74 margin. The visitors needed 97 seconds to answer with a 0-10 run, with threes from Fredette and Ben Bentil, but they never got closer than that.
Help off the bench
Milan's bench outscored the visitors' bench 53-35, with Keifer Sykes and Riccardo Moraschini in main roles. Michael Roll had 9 points, Arturas Gudaitis added 8 and Paul Biligha 7 to give great contributions in this victory.
Using the same weapon
This was the third time this season Milan hit a season-high 14 three-pointers and the second time against Panathinaikos. In two the games against the Greens combined, Milan was 28 for 56 from three-point range.
The victory gave Milan a sweep of Panathinaikos, which could be of great importance. Milan won in Athens 78-79 and one does not need to look further than the finish of the last regular season to be reminded of the importance of tiebreakers. Last season six teams battled for three playoff spots in Round 30 and tiebreakers determined who went through. Panathinaikos did and Milan did not.
Road streak snapped
This Milan win snapped a run of four road victories in games between these teams. Before this game, Milan had not beaten Panathinaikos on its home floor since December 2014.
Round 19 action starts on Tuesday when Milan travels to visit Anadolu Efes Istanbul, while one day later Panathinaikos welcomes FC Bayern Munich.
Thursday, January 9, 2020