AX Armani Exchange Milan needed a comeback for the ages to take Game 1 of its playoffs series against FC Bayern Munich. Kevin Punter and Malcolm Delaney made sure that wouldn’t be necessary for the Italian side in Game 2.
Just two days after scoring 27 points in the first half and falling behind by 19 points in the second quarter, Milan built up a 22-point advantage and used the composure of a champion to bring home an 80-69 victory for a 2-0 lead in its best-of-five series with Bayern.
It took Milan nearly 3 minutes to finally score, but then Punter and Delaney took over, combining for 17 points in a 20-0 run for a 20-5 advantage. The guard duo upped their output to a combined 22 points by the time the cushion grew to 40-18. That was already 1 point more than Punter and Delaney had scored together in Game 1. And by that time, Milan had gotten other players going as well, mainly Shavon Shields, who had pitched in 8 points.
The advantage was 47-29 at the intermission and Milan knew a 2-0 series lead was far from locked up. Bayern had shown in the first game what it was capable of doing - building the 19-point lead in the first 20 minutes of the game.
James Gist threw down a big dunk early in the second half and Wade Baldwin IV began to score at will before a Gist three-point play cut the margin to 55-49. That is when the composure began to take control.
Shields answered with a layup and Rodriguez converted 2 free throws following technical fouls that got Bayern head coach Andrea Trinchieri ejected. Rodriguez then assisted on a big Jeremy Evans dunk and topped off the run with a three-pointer for a 65-50 lead.
Bayern wouldn’t be Bayern without putting up a final fight and 3 three-pointers had the visitors within 77-69 with less than 2 minutes to play. Milan made sure to grab the rebound on a missed Baldwin three-pointer and then Game 1 hero Zach Leday provided the dagger - a triple to make it 80-69 with 77 seconds remaining.
"Overall, I am pleased because we kept our composure: we rebounded their misses. We took a good win. Now we’ll see what happens in Game 3," Messina said after the game.
Milan has shown in the first two games against Bayern that it has both the resiliency to rally from 19 points down and get the win as well as the composure to fend off a young hungry team’s comeback attempt.
Now, Milan is just one victory from returning to the Final Four for the first time in 29 years.