Barcelona fights hard to down Milan
In a game with big swings that went down to the wire, FC Barcelona pulled out an 84-80 victory over visiting AX Armani Exchange Milan at Palau Blaugrana on Friday night. The victory took Barca's record to 18-6, keeping it tied with Real Madrid for second place. Milan dropped to 11-13 but stayed in the eight place due to its head-to-head tiebreak advantage over Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. Milan led by double-digits in the second quarter and 36-45 at halftime, but Malcolm Delaney rallied the hosts to take a 58-51 advantage. Things were close to the finish, but Delaney came up with the big plays for Barca to prevail. Delaney finished with 26 points on 6-for-9 three-point shooting with 9 assists and 5 rebounds. Kyle Kuric added 16 points, Nikola Mirotic 15 and Brandon Davies 12 for Barca's fifth consecutive win. Milan, which has nine straight road defeats, saw Sergio Rodriguez score 14 points. Kaleb Tarczewski collected 13 points plus 9 rebounds, Nemanja Nedovic finished with 12 points, while Vladimir Micov and Luis Scola scored 10 apiece in a losing effort.
Mirotic got things going with 6 points to which Davies and Delaney added their own as Barca shot ahead 11-5. Jeff Brooks hit a triple for Milan, but the same Barca trio made sure the hosts stayed ahead, 17-8 lead. Nedovic scored 5 points to help cut the difference to 23-17 at the end of the first quarter. Kuric and Nedovic exchanged three-pointers early in the second before Micov and Rodriguez nailed back-to-back shots from long range that were good for Milan's first lead, 28-30. Kuric answered from deep, but Milan scored the next 13 points behind efforts from Arturas Gudaitis, Drew Crawford and Rodriguez, the latter of whose triple made it 31-43. The visitors went into halftime up 36-45, but Mirotic and Delaney each hit from the arc to start of the third quarter by reducing the margin to 44-47. Barca's charge continued with a three-point play from Davies before Delaney hit a triple for a 50-50 tie. He dialed up 2 more to open a 58-51 lead, capping a 22-6 run by the hosts. Milan went without a field goal for full 5 minutes until Rodriguez and Scola knocked down triples bridging the third and fourth quarters to get Milan within 63-62. Adam Hanga's three-pointer and a pair of baskets from Victor Claver gave Barcelona some breathing room at 72-66, but Milan was not going away. After Rodriguez and Delaney traded triples, Nedovic and Tarczewski put Milan in front 76-77 with 1:40 to go. But then Delaney hit his sixth three-pointer, then in the final minute dished assists for Davies and Kuric for Barcelona to hold on to the victory.
Barcelona looked in control in the second quarter to go up 26-19, but Nemanja Nedovic sparked a 5-24 response for Milan during which Drew Crawford, Vladimir Micov, Arturas Gudaitis and Sergio Rodriguez all scored. Barca answered that in the third quarter with a 22-6 spurt in which Delaney scored 12 points.
Foursome carries the hosts
In the first half Milan used 10 different scorers to drop 45 points, with no player scoring more than 8. The visitors finished the game with five scorers in double figures, none scoring more than 14 points. Meanwhile, Brandon Davies, Malcolm Delaney and Nikola Mirotic combined to score Barcelona's first 21 points, and with Kyle Kuric tagging along the foursome accounted for 69 of winners' 84 points on the night.
Kyle Kuric played less than 2 minutes two days ago at Valencia, due to a coach's decision. Kuric was back to his usual minutes this night, and delivered 16 points, including a basket with 11 seconds to go that sealed the victory.
New Heurtel injury
Thomas Heurtel hurt his ankle in the second quarter, when he landed on an opponent's foot. He was helped off the court and did not return. Heurtel was sidelined since the summer due to a knee injury he had suffered with his national team, and returned to action just last week.
With Milan's loss, league leader Anadolu Efes Istanbul (21-3) clinched the first playoff berth of the season. No team had previously qualified for the playoffs earlier than February 7 and none had ever done so with a lower percentage of regular season games played.
These teams will continue EuroLeague action in two weeks' time with Round 25. Milan will host a fellow playoff contender Khimki Moscow Region, while Barcelona will travel to face Panathinaikos OPAP Athens.
Friday, February 7, 2020