Milan overcomes Barcelona to take top spot
AX Armani Exchange Milan (7-1) climbed to the top of the standings by overcoming previous joint-leader FC Barcelona (6-2) with a battling 75-70 win at Mediolanum Forum. Milan started fast and was ahead throughout the first half, reaching the break with a 42-34 advantage. It stayed more or less that way during the third period, before Barca fought back to take its first lead after a 0-14 run to start the final quarter. But Milan responded with its own 8-0 run, and stayed ahead the rest of the way. Luigi Datome top scored with 17 points, while Devon Hall added 16 on 4-of-5 three-point shooting. Konstantinos Mitoglou and Shavon Shields both contributed 11 points in victory. Brandon Davies paced Barcelona with 12 points, while Nikola Mirotic and Nigel Hayes-Davis both scored 10.
Shields opened the scoring from mid-range and Hall dunked in transition for an early 4-0 lead. Hayes-Davis got Barcelona on the scoreboard before Nicolo Melli and Mirotic traded triples. Kyle Hines also struck from deep as Milan stretched the lead to 12-5, but Sertac Sanli and Nick Calathes narrowed the gap. Hall was on target from long range and Datome scored inside, and another Hall triple made it 22-13. Two scores from Kyle Kuric brought Barca back, but Mitoglou helped preserve Milan’s lead, 28-21 after ten minutes. The second quarter started with a big alley-oop slam from Kaleb Tarczewski, before a low-scoring phase of play was ended by a layup in penetration from Rokas Jokubaitis. Defenses continued to dominate with just 6 points in the first 5 minutes of the second quarter. Pierre Oriola scored twice to get Barca back to 32-29 but Mitoglou’s inside basket helped keep the host ahead, and Hall struck another triple for the first double-digit lead, 40-30. Cory Higgins hit back with a driving score, before Hines and Mirotic made it 42-34 at the break.
Another Hall three-pointer opened the second half, but Mirotic answered with 5 straight points. Kuric’s layup was bettered by Mitoglou with a triple and a dunk for a 52-41 Milan lead. Sergio Rodriguez and Calathes traded baskets, Davies made a tough inside score before Datome scored under the basket and added a triple for a 61-49 advantage at the end of the third. Davies scored twice to narrow the gap early in the fourth, before Rolands Smits and Hayes-Davis kept Barca charging. Davies and Hayes-Davis both netted again to complete a 0-14 run and give Barca its first lead, 61-63. Melli scored inside to end Milan’s drought of nearly six minutes but Davies stayed hot to send the visitors back in front. Shields struck from deep for a 67-65 lead inside the final three minutes, and a four-point play from Datome stretched the advantage. Higgins gave Barca hope but Rodriguez made a stepback jumper, and a Calathes triple was not enough as Shields iced the game from the foul line.
Milan’s perimeter defense clamps down
Barcelona came into the game with a 39.5% accuracy record from three-point range – second-best in the competition – but Milan’s perimeter defense did a great job in limiting that threat on Thursday night. The Spanish side was only able to convert 3-of-16 long-range shots (18.8%), its lowest total in nearly two years. Cory Higgins, Kyle Kuric and Nicolas Laprovittola went a combined 0-7 from three-point territory. Another key stat was Milan taking care of the ball, committing just 9 turnovers to go with 16 assists. Barca, in contrast, had 13 assists with 12 turnovers.
Hines hits rare triple
A highlight play came early in the game when Milan had a broken play, Kyle Hines picked up the loose ball around midcourt and, with the shot clock running low, had no option other than sending up a three-point attempt. It flew straight through the hoop, giving Hines only the second three-pointer of his 329-game EuroLeague career. Remarkably, the veteran center’s only previous triple was also scored against Barcelona! That came when he still wore a CSKA Moscow uniform, in a 67-96 road win at Palau Blaugrana in November 2019.
Calathes reaches scoring milestone
Barcelona guard Nick Calathes reached a milestone in the first quarter against Milan as his opening points of the game saw him reach 2,500 points in his Turkish Airlines EuroLeague career. He now has 2,507 points, jumping ahead of Kostas Sloukas (2,502) who can reclaim 19th place in the all-time scoring list when he plays for Olympiacos Piraeus against AS Monaco on Friday. Vassilis Spanoulis is the top scorer in competition history with 4,455 points, with Nando De Colo the leading active player on 3,670 points.
Thursday, November 4, 2021