When a team has a former EuroLeague MVP on its roster, there is always a little bit of a comfort level in close games knowing there is someone to lean on. When that former MVP can come in for the final 5 minutes with fresh legs, it's a massive advantage. AX Armani Exchange Milan was able to play that advantage when it called on 2013-14 EuroLeague MVP Sergio Rodriguez with 5 minutes left and he led a closing 2-10 charge for his team's first-ever victory over Anadolu Efes in Istanbul, 69-72, on Thursday night.
"Chacho", as Rodriguez is affectionately known, scored his only two baskets of the game and dished 2 of his 8 assists in the closing stretch to carry Milan to the victory. When Coach Ettore Messina called his number, Efes led by three and Bryant Dunston would soon score to make it 67-62.
On the ensuing play, Rodriguez pulled up for a mid-range jumper. After a defensive stop, he found Kevin Punter for a deep three to tie the game. When Kyle Hines blocked Vasilije Micic's shot with a little more than 2 minutes to go, Rodriguez grabbed the rebound and stormed coast to coast for a go-ahead layup. And then he found Punter for a jumper to cap a 0-9 run.
"Chacho always comes in with a lot of energy, lifts us up. I felt like we needed that," Punter said of his co-star in the game-winning run. "We got it going, we got a couple of stops, made a couple shots, got another couple stops on defense and we sealed the game."
His final line of 4 points – on 0-for-5 three-point shooting – 8 assists, 2 steals and 1 turnover for a performance index rating of 9 is not among the great games in the two-time EuroLeague champion's career. However, what Milan needed most from him on this night was what Rodriguez has provided time after time in his illustrious career.
A noted super-sub, Rodriguez came in and changed the game. He did it with his experience, with his shooting, with his passing, with his speed and with his smarts. That package was a big part of what made him the EuroLeague MVP with Real Madrid in 2014 and of what makes him a dynamic force off the bench for Milan, which made history with its victory to move into a share of third place in the standings.