Another strong season for AX Armani Exchange Milan saw the team regularly show its ability to match any other in Europe, but ultimately fall just short of making a back-to-back Final Four appearance.
Season in review: AX Armani Exchange Milan
There were many impressive victories for Milan over the course of the season, but Ettore Messina's men arguably never demonstrated their credentials more than when taking a thrilling 73-75 victory at FC Barcelona in Round 20 to become the first visiting team to win at Palau Blaugrana all season. It was a night for backcourt stars Sergio Rodriguez and Malcolm Delaney to step up and shine, scoring 18 and 15 points, respectively. But more important was the whole team's outstanding performance on defense, forcing the dangerous hosts into 19 turnovers. That completed a double for Milan over Barca, following its 75-70 home victory in Round 8, and sent a reminder that Messina's men had nobody to fear.
Its challenge for consecutive Final Four appearances was dealt an ultimately fatal blow in the opening game of the playoffs, when Milan lost 48-64 at home to eventual champs Anadolu Efes Istanbul. As the scoreline suggests, it was a miserable evening on offense for Milan, which made only 17 of 55 field goal attempts (30.9%) and scored just 22 points in the second half, with only Nicolo Melli (10 points) reaching double figures. If Milan had found a way to overcome Efes's defense and kept hold of home-court advantage, the rest of the series – and the season – could have played out very differently.
He's got next
Milan's roster was loaded with title-ready talent, with many players boasting several years of EuroLeague experience. An exception was Devon Hall, who made his debut in the competition after joining on a two-year deal from Brose Bamberg. The American shooting guard caught the eye by averaging 9.9 points per game over 36 appearances, showing his confidence to take on decisive shots in the opening month of the season by netting a last-minute game-winner against LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne. Hall will be back with Milan next season, and the experience gained during his rookie campaign will surely help the 26-year-old become an even bigger factor going forward.
Milan head coach Ettore Messina has always based his philosophy on tough defense, so it was no surprise to see that his team conceded the fewest number of points per game in the competition – an average of just 71.9 last season. The Italian team did a particularly good job in breaking its opponents' rhythm, allowing just 14.4 assists per game (second in the league). The presence of the season's Best Defender award winner Kyle Hines helped make Milan extremely difficult to score against close to the basket, allowing just 17.3 two-pointers per game – again the second-best out of all teams.