Inspired Datome leads Milan past Valencia
AX Armani Exchange Milan blasted past Valencia Basket with a convincing 95-80 to solidify its position in the playoffs places and claim the head to head advantage between the teams. The home side raced into a 54-36 half-time lead behind outstanding long-range shooting, and maintained that advantage throughout the third quarter. Valencia briefly pulled the deficit back to single digits in the final period, but Milan raced clear again to ease home. Luigi Datome rolled back the years to score a joint career-high 27 points on 6-of-8 three-point shooting. Malcolm Delaney added 17 points on 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, while Kevin Punter scored 14 and Zach LeDay had 13. Derrick Williams paced Valencia with 17 points and 5 steals, with Nikola Kalinic netting 15 and Klemen Prepelic scoring 12. Milan improves to 11-7, and Valencia is now 10-9.
After a quiet start, Riccardo Moraschini opened the scoring with a four-point play, answered by deep strikes from Joan Sastre and Mike Tobey. Williams gave Valencia its first lead 6-8, but 5 fast points from Delaney saw Milan hit back. Louis Labeyrie netted 5 consecutive points and Williams threw down a reverse alley-oop to keep Valencia close, 18-16. Martin Hermannsson and Kalinic sent the visitors ahead, but Datome had the last word of the first quarter, firing from deep for a 21-20 lead. Datome stayed hot with a three-point play and a three-pointer to make it 27-20. A pair of baskets from Kyle Hines followed by triples from Datome and Sergio Rodriguez stretched the lead to 37-22. Sam Van Rossom answered from deep for Valencia before Delaney hit another triple. The visitors rallied with transition scores from Fernando San Emeterio and Williams, but Michael Roll continued the three-point barrage to keep Milan clear. A three-point play by Williams was bettered by Delaney and LeDay, stretching the lead to 47-32. Punter went coast to coast to score, and LeDay beat the half-time buzzer from the corner for a 54-36 half-time lead. LeDay then added the first score of the second half with a big slam, and a four-point play from Delaney made it 62-38. Kalinic and Williams battled for close-range conversions before Datome again struck from the corner, but Kalinic hit another triple and Tobey dunked to narrow the gap to 65-48. Datome reignited Milan with his fifth three-pointer, but Van Rossom responded from deep and Kalinic added 4 free throws. Williams made a three-pointer but Datome and Kaleb Tarczewski scored inside, before Kalinic and Roll traded two-pointers to finish the third quarter, 76-60. Klemen Prepelic opened the final period’s scoring from deep, and Labeyrie scored from close-range in a 0-9 run which cut the lead to 76-69. But Datome stepped up to bank in a floater, and Delaney’s three-pointer restored the double-digit lead, 81-69, with six minutes remaining. Punter added another three and Hines scored at the basket, before Punter’s driving layup stretched the lead to 88-73. Datome scored inside and added another triple to remove any remaining doubt, and Milan cruised home.
Datome ties personal best
The key performer was Luigi Datome, whose 27 points equalled the highest of his 219-game EuroLeague career. It was only matched by his tally for Fenerbahce against Crvena Zvezda in March 2016. He also provided 6 rebounds for a PIR of 26, his joint second-best in the competition.
Three-pointers make the difference
Milan blew the game open with its long-range shooting in the first half, making 10 of its 13 three-point attempts before the break, including 3-of-4 from Datome. Appropriately the first half ended with a corner three from Zach LeDay. Milan’s accuracy cooled after that but still finished with a strong 16-of-27 from long-range. Valencia, on the other hand, converted 9 of its 23 long-range strikes.
Milan’s three-point accuracy really did make the difference, because the game was otherwise very closely matched. There was almost nothing between the teams in two-point shooting (63.3% vs 64.3%), rebounding (23 vs 21), assists (17 vs 20), steals (9 vs 8), and turnovers (16 each).
Milan travels to ALBA Berlin for Round 20 on Thursday, and Valencia will head home to welcome Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade on Friday.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021