Milan carries big early advantage to 2-0 series lead
AX Armani Exchange Milan moved within one victory of its first Final Four appearance in 29 years with a hard-fought 80-69 win at home over FC Bayern Munich for a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs series. Things were more comfortable for three-time champion Milan, which wrestled control of the game with a 20-0 first-quarter run and built a 22-point advantage in the second quarter. The hosts never let Bayern get closer than 6 points to keep the visitors from a magical comeback like the one Milan had in Game 1 when it rallied from 19 points down. Kevin Punter paced four Milan scorers in double figures with 20 points, while Sergio Rodriguez scored 13 points, Shavon Shields had 12 and Game 1 hero Zach Leday pitched in 10 points. Wade Baldwin IV tried to get Bayern its first-ever playoff victory, but his 23 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists were not enough. James Gist, Jalen Reynolds and Vladimir Lucic all added 11 points in the defeat.
Bayern head coach Andrea Trinchieri was forced to change his starting line-up as Nick Weiler-Babb missed the game with an ankle injury suffered in Game 1. DJ Seeley replaced Weiler-Babb in the first five for the guests alongside Baldwin, Lucic, Gist and Leon Radosevic. Milan head coach Ettore Messina kept the same starters with Malcolm Delaney, Punter, Leday, Vladimir Micov and Kyle Hines. Baldwin started the game with a three-pointer with Bayern getting the first 5 points. Milan struggled out of the gates with Punter’s fastbreak layup finally getting the home side on the board after nearly 3 minutes. Punter was Milan’s hot hand, netting a three-pointer and a three-point play to move his tally to 10 points and Delaney added 7 points in a 20-0 run while Bayern went ice cold on offense and fell behind 20-5. Paul Zipser ended the Bayern drought with just 1 of 3 free throws after more than 6 minutes. The cushion ballooned to 23-6 on Shields’s three-point play. Reynolds came off the Bayern bench for 4 points and had the guests within 26-12 after 10 minutes. Reynolds opened the second-quarter scoring, but the Bayern defense could not slow down the Milan offense, which got jumpers from Shields and Delaney as the margin increased to 20 points. The Bayern nightmare continued with Punter and Leday draining back-to-back triples to pad the lead to 40-18. Bayern managed to keep Milan without a basket for nearly 4 minutes and Lucic hit a triple while Baldwin converted a three-point play in a 4-11 spurt to make it 44-29. Rodriguez made sure Bayern didn’t have a positive feeling going into the break with a long three-pointer for a 47-29 score at intermission.
After Hines's free throw to start the second half, Gist tried to get Bayern going emotionally with a big dunk-and-one. Punter heated back up for the hosts with 7 points, but Bayern got back-to-back three-pointers and then two scores from Baldwin to get within 55-44. The deficit was 55-49 after Gist’s and-one. Bayern coach Trinchieri was ejected from the game with 1 minute left in the third quarter and his team down 58-50 for a second technical foul. Two Rodriguez free throws were followed by a Jeremy Evans dunk. Rodriguez added a three-pointer to extend the gap to 65-50. Baldwin managed a buzzer-beating triple and Bayern was down 65-53 after 30 minutes. Leday knocked down a jumper to start the final frame and Rodriguez came up with another big three-pointer to put Milan up 72-55. Bayern cut the deficit to 12 points only to see Hines make it 76-60. Bayern would not give up as Zipser drained 2 three-pointers and Lucic hit a triple of his own to pull within 77-69 with 2 minutes left. Baldwin missed a three-point attempt which could have made it a 5-point game and Leday knocked down a dagger triple at the other end with 77 seconds remaining for an 80-69 advantage.
Milan a little bit better from long range
Milan came into the playoffs as the number two team in three-point shooting percentage at 41.6% and the hosts were a bit better in Game 2 than the opener. Milan made just 6 of 25 triples (24.0%) in Game 1 but followed that with 7-of-20 three-point shooting (35.0%).
Punter guaranteed no slow start
Milan was slow out of the gates in Game 1 with just 27 points in the first 20 minutes. Kevin Punter made sure there wouldn’t be a slow start this time around with 10 points of his 20 points in the first 10 minutes as Milan raced away to a big lead - and eventually the win.
History for Rodriguez
Sergio Rodriguez notched a historic mark in the victory as the Milan veteran picked up 2 steals to move into a tie for 10th place on the all-time list in the EuroLeague with 249 along with his former Spanish national teammate Juan Carlos Navarro.
Milan committed only 9 turnovers while forcing 14 Bayern miscues and the hosts took advantage of that to the tune of 24 points off turnovers to 13 for Bayern.
These teams will continue their showdown on April 28 with Game 3 in Munich as Bayern hopes to stay alive and Milan looks to finish the series with a sweep.
Thursday, April 22, 2021