Milan becomes first to win in Barcelona
AX Armani Exchange Milan erased a 10-point third-quarter deficit to topple league-leading FC Barcelona 73-75 on Tuesday night. In doing so, Milan completed a regular-season sweep of Barcelona and became the first team to win this season at Palau Blaugrana. Sergio Rodriguez scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half to help Milan to a 28-34 halftime lead and Malcolm Delaney scored 14 of his 15 in the second half, including a key late triple, to lead the comeback. The result dropped Barcelona’s record to 15-4, while Milan climbed to 11-6. Kyle Kuric paced Barcelona with 22 points, Nikola Mirotic added 18, Rokas Jokubaitis tallied 11 points and 6 assists and Brando Davies also scored 11 in defeat.
Rodriguez opened the scoring with a three-pointer for Milan before Mirotic made the first mark in the Barcelona ledger. Kuric gave the hosts their first lead with a tip-in, 5-3. Nicolo Melli sank a fadeaway in the lane to tie it only to see Nicolas Laprovittola respond with a triple. Trey Kell came off the bench to score his first EuroLeague points for Milan and Rodriguez connected from deep to give the visitors an 8-10 edge. Rodriguez remained red-hot with two layups to give him 10 of his team’s first 14 points. Barcelona remained close behind and Jokubaitis made a contested fastbreak layup to even things at 14-14 after 10 minutes.
Jokubaitis beat the shot-clock with a jumper and Brandon Davies scored inside as Barcelona looked to pull away. Kell kept Milan close and Melli buried a three to make it 20-19. A three by Ben Bentil gave Milan the lead and prompted a Barcelona timeout. The lead swung back and forth on a Kuric triple and a Kyle Hines layup. Free throws by Bentil gave the visitors a 24-27 lead. Rodriguez nailed his third three of the night and Bentil added a second-chance layup to extend the margin to 7. After a Barcelona timeout, Mirotic drained a three-pointer, but Rodriguez’s jumper gave Milan a 28-34 lead at the break.
Davies was called for an offensive foul and then Devon Hall sank a floater to start the start the second half, but Barcelona found its rhythm and scored 9 unanswered points to take a 37-36 lead and prompt a Milan timeout. Mirotic scored 5 points and Laprovittola dished 3 assists in that run. After free throws by Hines, Mirotic scored inside and Laprovittola nailed a triple. Kuric netted a jumper and a three to complete a 19-2 run for a 47-38 advantage. Malcolm Delaney tried to revive the visitors with a triple, but a layup by Kuric stretched the margin to double figures. Jerian Grant and Delaney rallied Milan back to within 5 before Jokubaitis beat the third-quarter buzzer with a layup for a 54-47 lead.
Grant and Hines scored the first two baskets of the fourth quarter to bring Milan within 3. Free throws by Hall were followed by a layup from Hines to tie the game at 56-56. Kuric ended the Barcelona drought with free throws, but Delaney responded with a three-pointer to make it 58-59 with 5 minutes to go. Jokubaitis countered from behind the arc and Kuric sank a mid-range shot to give the hosts some breathing room. After a timeout, Rodriguez and Delaney nailed back-to-back threes to give Milan the lead. Mirotic tied the game at 65-65 with a jumper. Milan got big baskets by Melli and Hall to take a 65-70 lead into the penultimate minute. Davies scored inside for Barcelona and Hall split free throws for Milan. Kuric drilled a three with 34.3 seconds to go that made it 70-71. After Delaney and Mirotic traded threes, Melli went to the line with 4.9 seconds remaining. He missed the first and made the second before Laprovittola missed a desperation three on the buzzer.
Milan guards put on a shooting clinic
AX Armani Exchange Milan can point to clutch shooting as the biggest reason it was able to defeat FC Barcelona on the road on Tuesday. Coach Ettore Messina’s men shot 10 for 17 on three-pointers (58.8%) for the game and were 4 for 5 from downtown in the fourth quarter. Malcolm Delaney made 3 of those fourth-quarter triples and Sergio Rodriguez made the fourth. For the game, Delaney was 4 for 5 from deep and Rodriguez was 4 for 6. The three-point shooting accuracy was the third-best for a road game in club history. One of the two better showings also came in Barcelona; In February 2006, Massimo Bulleri led the way with 27 points on 6-of-7 three-point shooting to lead Milan to a 75-77 road win. Milan was 12 for 19 from behind the arc (62.5%) that night.
Kuric shines in defeat
Kyle Kuric turned in one of the best performances of his EuroLeague career in FC Barcelona’s loss to AX Armani Exchange Milan on Tuesday. Kuric made all 5 of his two-pointers, shot 3 for 4 from downtown and made 3 of 4 free throws. He added 5 rebounds, dished 1 assist and drew 3 fouls in compiling a career-best performance index rating of 29. Kuric bettered his previous career-high by 3; he posted a 26 for Barcelona against his former team Zenit St Petersburg in October 2019. Kuric was 3 points short of his personal best in scoring, which came in November 2000 against Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. In both of those games, Barcelona won big, but this time Kuric’s big night was not enough to lift his team.
Chacho turns back the clock
Sergio Rodriguez turned back the clock on Tuesday in Barcelona to lift AX Armani Exchange Milan to a critical road win. He scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half to get Milan going and added 3 assists and a big three-pointer in the fourth quarter as the visitors rallied from behind. Chacho also made a move up the all-time charts with his performance. Rodriguez passed former Real Madrid teammate Sergio Llull for fifth place on the career scoring charts with 3,305 points. And by shooting 4 for 6 from downtown, Rodriguez broke a tie with another former Real Madrid teammate, Rudy Fernandez, for sole possession of second place in career three-pointers made with 525. Rodriguez, who has now made at least 1 three-pointer in nine straight games and multiple threes six of his last seven, should only pad his lead over his old friends in the weeks to come.
Tuesday, January 11, 2022