Milan avoids collapse, ends Final Four drought
AX Armani Exchange Milan narrowly avoided a massive collapse in ending a nearly three-decade wait by defeating FC Bayern Munich 92-89 at home in Game 5 to reach the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four. Shavon Shields poured in a career-high 34 points to lead the three-time European champion, which last played in the Final Four in 1992. Milan led by as many as 17 points and was still up 12 points with 78 seconds left in the game. But through a series full of amazing comebacks, Bayern did not give up and had possession of the ball down just 2 points in the final 14 seconds until Kyle Hines came up with a big defensive stop for Milan - to go along with his 12 points and 7 rebounds. Malcolm Delaney added 16 points as Milan avoided becoming the first team in EuroLeague history to lose a playoff series after winning the first two games. Bayern was paced by Jalen Reynolds with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Wade Baldwin IV had 17 points, JaJuan Johnson scored 14, DJ Seeley 11 and Paul Zipser chipped in 10. Bayern just missed becoming the first road team to win a Game 5 in a playoffs series and the first German club to reach the EuroLeague Final Four.
Milan head coach Ettore Messina kept the same starting lineup as Game 4 with Delaney, Kevin Punter, Zach LeDay, Vladimir Micov and Kaleb Tarczewski. Bayern boss Andrea Trinchieri made one change as Reynolds came on for Leon Radosevic alongside Baldwin, Diego Flaccadori, Vladimir Lucic and Johnson. Bayern went to its big men early with Reynolds dunking on the opening possession and Johnson hitting a jumper for a 0-4 lead. LeDay hit back at the other side only to see Reynolds score again for a 2-8 Bayern lead and a Messina timeout. After Delaney got Milan going with 5 straight points, Johnson added 4 points for the visitors, who led 9-14. Shields came off the Milan bench and buried 2 three-pointers in scoring 10 points while Seeley had 4 points for Bayern, which trailed 24-22 after 10 minutes. Luigi Datome started the second quarter with a jumper and Shields continued his outstanding game with 5 more points as Milan had the first 9 points to open a 33-22 advantage. Reynolds finally got Bayern back on the board after more than 3 minutes and the deficit was down to 7. Tarczewski punched back with two scores off offensive rebounds and Sergio Rodiguez’s long triple made it 42-29. After Bayern managed 7 straight points to close the gap to 6, Shields hit three free throws and Datome connected from deep for a 50-38 lead, which was 50-40 at the break.
Shields's free throws opened the second half and he added a big and-one before Delaney’s three-pointer increased the cushion to 58-44. Zipser connected from deep for Bayern but Shields remained unstoppable with the next 5 points as Milan moved ahead 63-47. Bayern made big comebacks in the series and hoped to start one with Seeley’s three-pointer making it 63-53. Milan responded with a Hines dunk and Punter finally scored for the first time with a triple and 2 free throws and Milan was up 70-53. Seeley barely kept Bayern’s dreams alive with a three-pointer as it was 72-58 after 30 minutes. Punter’s free throws started the final frame and the cushion was 76-60 after a big LeDay dunk. Baldwin refused to give up with a 5-point burst only to see Hines show his big-game experience with two scores and a block as the score was 82-66 with less than 6 minutes to play. Bayern has not met a lead it doesn’t think it could overcome and Baldwin scored two quick baskets and Zan Sisko drained a triple to get the guests within 83-77. Delaney rose just in time with a huge triple and followed it with a layup and Milan was up 88-77 with under 3 minutes to play. Shields appeared to have provided the dagger with 78 seconds left with a buzzer-beating three-pointer and a 91-79 lead. Bayern refused to die with Lucic hitting a three-pointer, followed by a Reynolds basket. Then Reynolds also hit from deep to make it 91-87 with 15 seconds remaining. Shields turned the ball over and Baldwin immediately put it in and then Shields committed another turnover to give Bayern the ball down 2 points with 14 seconds to play. Hines came up with a jump ball situation on a Baldwin attempt and Shields split free throws with 5.8 seconds left. Milan could only breathe relief when Zipser’s desperation three was off-target.
Memories of 1992
The wait is over, Milan is back in the Final Four. The last time the Italian club reached the European showcase was in 1992, when it lost to eventual champion Partizan Belgrade in the semifinals.
Bench to the rescue
One of the strengths of Milan is its depth and Coach Messina's men took advantage of that as the bench scored 61 points compared to 31 points from its starters. In fact, Shavon Shields out-scored the first five with 34 points of his own.
Shavon Shields picked the perfect time for his best game in the EuroLeague. He tallied a career-high 34 points, including 5 of 6 three-pointers and 11 of 12 free throws to go with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals for a personal best index rating of 41.
Johnson stepped up again for Bayern
JaJuan Johnson can be happy about the way he finished the EuroLeague season The Bayern big man had 14 points and 9 rebounds in Game 5 for a career-best PIR of 22. Over the final three games, the 32-year-old Johnson averaged a 19.3 PIR after having averaged an index rating of just 3.7 in the first 35 games of the season.
Milan made 20 of 22 free throws compared to 12 of 18 for Bayern. The hosts also drained 12 of 22 three-pointers while Bayern made just 7 of 19 from long range.
Tuesday, May 4, 2021