Shields, Punter lead Milan in Kaunas
AX Armani Exchange Milan returned to winning ways in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season by topping Zalgiris Kaunas 64-69 on the road on Friday. Milan improved to 18-10 in the standings and registered its eighth road victory in the current EuroLeague campaign. Zalgiris dropped to 15-13 and saw its seven-game home win streak ended. Shavon Shields led the winners with 23 points. Kevin Punter added 14 while Kyle Hines and Luigi Datome each had 10 for Milan. Marius Grigonis led Zalgiris with 17 points. Joffrey Lauvergne added 15 while Lukas Lekavicius had 11 for the hosts. Punter had 9 first-quarter points to give Milan a 13-17 lead after 10 minutes. Zalgiris got within 32-34 at halftime but Milan improved its defense after the break, boosting its margin to 45-50 at the end of the third quarter. Grigonis and Lekavicius brought Zalgiris within 62-64 but Punter downed a jumper and Shields added 3-of-4 free throws to seal the victory.
Punter got Milan going with a jumper, getting help from Kyle Hines and Shields for a 2-6 lead. Lauvergne followed a layup with a three-point play and Grigonis improved Punter's basket with a three-pointer to tie it at 10-10. Hines scored down low and Punter struck from downtown in a 0-7 Milan run that Shields capped with a jumper to make Zalgiris call timeout at 10-17. Grigonis hit a floater but Sergio Rodriguez's layup restored a 13-19 Milan lead after 10 minutes. Rodriguez fed Kaleb Tarczewski for a dunk and added a driving layup to make it a double-digit game, 13-23. Karolis Lukosiunas buried a triple and Augustine Rubit followed Grigonis's floater with a jumper but Luigi Datome and Hines kept Milan way ahead, 20-28. Rubit and Lauvergne each scored down low before Punter and Shields hit one apiece from beyond the arc for a 24-34 Milan margin. Rubit and Grigonis combined for 6 points in a 0-8 run that Lauvergne capped with a reverse layup to bring Zalgiris within 32-34 at halftime. Shields downed a jumper, Jeremy Evans added a tip-in and Michael Roll struck from downtown as 34-41 Milan surged ahead after the break. Nigel Hayes rescued Zalgiris with a jumper and a three-pointer but Shields singlehandedly restored a 39-46 Milan edge. Datome hit a triple before Rokas Jokubaitis and Lekavicius gave Zalgiris plenty of hope, 45-50, after 30 minutes. Lekavicius downed a jump hook and found Paulius Jankunas for a layup that got the hosts even closer, 49-52. Shields nailed a three-pointer and got help from Datome to give Milan fresh air at 49-57. Grigonis and Lekavicius each struck from beyond the arc but Hines answered with a layup for a 55-59 score. Datome bettered Lekavicius's layup with a corner triple, Lauvergne and Hines traded layups and Grigonis struck from downtown for a 62-64 score with 2 minutes left. Punter hit a critical jumper, Lauvergne scored in the paint and Zalgiris sent Shields to the foul line with 20.1 seconds remaining. He hit both attempts to make sure of the Milan victory.
Shavon Shields was consistent throughout the game and made the difference from the foul line down the stretch. He finished the game with 23 points, making 5 of 8 two-pointers and 3 of 6 triples, adding 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 7 fouls drawn for a game-high PIR of 27.
Zalgiris managed to get within 62-64 with 2 minutes left. Milan needed a go-to guy and Punter stepped up with a mid-range jumper that made it a four-point game, 62-66, with 50.4 seconds left. Shields hit 3-of-4 free throws in crunch time to make sure Milan returned home with a win.
Simply put, Milan shot the ball better in Kaunas. Milan downed 19 of 35 two-point shots (54.3%) and 8 of 19 from downtown (42.1%). It kept Zalgiris way below its usual percentages: the hosts hit 18 of 42 two-pointers (42.9%) and 6 of 16 triples (37.5%).
Did you know?
Kyle Hines became the second player to reach 250 blocks in his Turkish Airlines EuroLeague career. He reached the milestone with 3:38 left in the game, blocking Joffrey Lauvergne's attempt. Hines also climbed to second place in the all-time standings, going past Fran Vazquez (249). Bryant Dunston of Anadolu Efes Istanbul leads with 267 career blocks.
Both teams return to EuroLeague action next week. Milan visits CSKA Moscow on Thursday, March 11 in what is the 20th meeting between them since their rivalry started in the 1966 EuroLeague semifinals. One night later, Zalgiris plays on the road against Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
Friday, March 5, 2021