Milan routes Efes to get home-court in playoffs
In a regular season finale for two playoff-bound teams, AX Armani Exchange Milan rose to the challenge and downed Anadolu Efes Istanbul 98-75 to clinch fourth place in the standings and lock up home-court playoff advantage on Friday night. Milan opened a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter and never allowed Efes closer than 7 points the rest of the night, making sure it will open the playoffs on its home floor. Shavon Shields led Milan with 19 points and Kevin Punter scored 18. Zach LeDay added 15 points, while Vladimir Micov and Jeremy Evens had 10 apiece. Rodrigue Beaubois had 15 points for Efes, Chris Singleton scored 12 and Tibor Pleiss added 11 in a defeat.
The teams traded blows from the start, with Pleiss and Micov each sinking a triple before LeDay and James Anderson did the same. A corner three from Adrien Moerman put Efes up 8-11, but the Micov and Punter answered to put Milan ahead. A triple from Micov, Shields knocked down a pair of mid-range jumpers and Sergio Rodriguez fed Evans for three dunks, including one to end the first quarter 29-19. Shields scored 6 points in a 7-0 Milan run that gave the hosts 36-21 advantage early in the second. Singleton and Bryant Dunston fought for baskets inside and Micic had a pair of layups that cut the difference to 38-29. Punter and Micov restored Milan’s double-digit margin before another dunk from Evans made it 46-31. Efes finished the first half with back-to-back threes from Singleton and Pleiss, making it 49-39 at halftime.
Micic scored twice and served Beaubois for an open corner triple to get Efes within 55-48 after the break. Punter responded with 6 points, including a triple, to get Milan’s margin back to 13 points. Sertac Sanli hit a long jumper and Beaubois had another triple for the visitors, but back-to-back threes from Shields and Rodriguez, followed by a fastbreak dunk from Shields, made it a 20-point game 73-53. Jeff Brooks beat the buzzer to end the third quarter and make it 78-56, before Milan extended it to 26 points early in the fourth. Dogus Balbay and Tolga Gecim cut into the deficit, but LeDay scored 10 consecutive points to extend the margin to 30 points 98-68, before Efes scored the last 7 points of the night.
Milan entered the game knowing it needs a win to clinch home-court advantage in the best-of-five playoffs, and delivered by scoring 98 points, tied for the team’s season-high on its home floor.
Sergio Rodriguez did not score until the third quarter, but he did a great job of running the Milan offense, dishing 7 assists in the first half as the hosts took control. Rodriguez finished with a season-high 10 assists, and also had 7 points and 3 steaks in 20 minutes on the floor.
Milan finished making 27 of 46 (58.7%) two-pointers in the game and 10 of 20 shots from three-point range. Its 27 two-pointers made tied the team’s season high.
Just in time for the playoffs, Milan got back Malcolm Delaney and Jeremy Evans. Delaney had 7 points in just under 17 minutes after missing seven games due to a knee surgery. Evans had 10 points plus 7 rebounds in 16 minutes after missing the last three games.
The next time both of these teams take the EuroLeague floor, it will be for Game 1 of the playoffs which both teams will hosts. Efes as the third seed will face Real Madrid and Milan as the fourth seed will host FC Bayern Munich.
Friday, April 9, 2021