Milan holds off Maccabi
AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan held on for a tough 87-83 victory over Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv on Thursday at Mediolanum Forum in the fashion capital. The win was Milan's fourth in a row, improved its record to 12-11 and saw it surge from ninth place into a share of sixth. Maccabi fell to 10-13. The game was close throughout and featured six lead changes in the fourth quarter alone. After Yovel Zoosman put the Israeli champs up 72-73 with 4 and a half minutes to go, Milan reeled off 10 unanswered points to take control for good. Mike James led the way with 19 points and 5 assists, Curtis Jerrells scored 16 off the bench, Jeff Brooks posted 15 points and 7 rebounds and James Nunnally scored 13. Scottie Wilbekin paced Maccabi with 20 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting, Michael Roll added 16, Johnny O'Bryant tallied 14 points and 8 rebounds and Tarik Black had 11 and 7.
Kaleb Tarczewski made his impact felt early with 3 blocks in as many minutes, but O'Bryant netted a three-pointer and a three-point play to lift the visitors to a 4-6 edge. Brooks became the offensive reference for Milan and tied it twice, but Wilbekin heated up and O'Bryant reached 10 points in just 6 minutes for a 12-16 Maccabi advantage. Milan scored the next 6 points to take the lead on James's free throws, but back-to-back triples by Jeremy Pargo and Roll helped Maccabi to a 20-22 lead after 10 minutes. Milan did not make a single three-pointer in the first quarter, but threes by Nunnally and Jerrells lifted the hosts to 28-27. The lead switched hands as the teams kept the pace fast. James converted a basket-plus-foul to push Milan in front 42-39, but Wilbekin beat the halftime buzzer from deep to even the score once more, 47-47, at the break. Wilbekin stayed hot with a three to start the second half, but soon James sank 3 free throws and James dunked an offensive rebound in a 7-0 run that prompted a Maccabi timeout at 54-51. The visitors fell into a deep freeze on offense as James and Nunnally pushed Milan to 60-53. Black revived Maccabi with a slam and a layup. A three from Roll narrowed the gap to 64-62 through three quarters. Roll buried his fourth three 3 minutes into the fourth quarter to send Maccabi back in front, 68-69. The lead changed hands on five consecutive possessions at one point before Brooks connected from behind the arc and James scored inside for a 77-73 Milan lead with 3 and a half minutes to play. James beat the shot-clock buzzer with another triple and Alen Omic capped a 10-0 run with a hook shot for a 9-point lead with 2 minutes remaining. Wilbekin gave Maccabi hope with a three that made it 84-80 and another to get within 86-83 with 9.8 seconds on the clock, but Maccabi could not score again.
After the lead changes hands on each of five consecutive shots – the last of which saw Jeff Brooks put Milan up 75-73, the game paused for a television timeout. Maccabi went cold at that point and committed 2 turnovers and missed 2 shots on its next four possessions. In that time, Mike James had 5 points, a steal and an assist on an Alen Omic layup to cap a 10-0 run that turned gave Milan control for good.
Kaleb Tarczewski returned from a hand injury that had sidelined him for a month and a half and produced immediately with 3 blocks in the game's first three minutes. His fighting presence helped Milan hold its own against Maccabi's bigger frontline. He finished with a career-high 4 blocks and a season-high performance index rating of 18 after scoring 8 points, collecting 4 rebounds and drawing 6 fouls in 24 minutes.
Milan is not known for its defense, but through its 7 blocked shots as a team – 1 less than the club record – kept Maccabi off balance in the paint. The visitors made just 19 of 43 two-point shots (44.2%). If Maccabi had just shot its season average on twos of 53.6%, it would have made four more baskets and won the game.
Next week's games
Milan looks to keep its winning run going next week when it visits Khimki Moscow Region. Maccabi will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul.
Thursday, February 21, 2019