Milan routs Zvezda to nab playoff berth
AX Armani Exchange Milan led from tip to buzzer in routing Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 72-93 on Tuesday at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall in the Serbian capital. The victory lifted Milan's record to 20-12 and, coupled with Real Madrid's loss to Anadolu Efes Istanbul in a game that ended shortly after, secured it a spot in the EuroLeague Playoffs for the first time since 2014. Kevin Punter shined with 23 points against his former team to lead the Zvezda attack. Zach LeDay and Shavon Shields added 14 points each with the latter dishing 5 assists. Kyle Hines scored 11 and Sergio Rodriguez delivered 8 assists. Jordan Loyd led Zvezda with 22 points and Ognjen Dobric scored 14 as the team fell to 9-23 on the season.
The game was physical at the start with a Hines layup representing the lone points in the first 2 minutes. The Zvezda attack remained cold, missing its first seven shots and calling a timeout before Loyd hit a mid-range jumper after nearly 5 minutes of action. By that point, Vladimir Micov had 4 points in Milan's 0-10 start. Once Zvezda got going, Loyd and co. were able to trade baskets with Milan. Luigi Datome's three-pointer gave the visitors a 12-22 advantage after 10 minutes. Datome opened the second quarter with another three and Kaleb Tarczewski's tip-in stretched the margin to 15. Dobric sandwiched a pair of triples around another by LeDay to keep Zvezda alive. A tip-in by Hines made it 23-34 midway through the quarter. Threes by Loyd and Marko Simonovic helped trim the deficit, but a deep three by Punter sent Milan in the locker room with a 36-47 halftime lead.
Punter had free throws, a steal and a layup in a 0-6 start to the second half. Another jumper by Punter and a triple from Michael Roll gave the visitors a 20-point cushion. A three by Loyd was quickly met by back-to-back Milan triples by LeDay and Punter to make it 41-64. Shields heated up to make it a 25-point game and the third quarter finished with the visitors comfortably ahead 51-75. Punter's fifth three of the game took the margin to 56-83 and it peaked at 58-87 on a baseline jumper from Hines. With the game in hand, Milan turned to its reserves and cruised the rest of the way.
Kevin Punter tied a career-best with 5-of-9 three-point shooting in amassing 23 points against his former team. His three-point barrage came after Punter missed his first 4 triples of the game. Punter scored 9 points in the third quarter as Milan turned an 11-point lead into a commanding 24-point lead.
Milan committed just 1 turnover in the first three quarters and finished the game with 5 along with 25 assists. It also outrebounded Zvezda 25-32 and made 14 of 27 three-pointers (51.9%) led by Punter and Zach LeDay, who set a career-best with 4-of-5 shooting from behind the arc.
Did you know?
The victory was Milan's first over Zvezda since 1989 and ended a six-game winning streak for Zvezda against Milan.
Both teams will be back in action on Thursday, April 1. Zvezda will host Israeli champion Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv. Milan will visit Panathinaikos OPAP Athens.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021