Real Madrid trailed for most of the game, but a 20-0 burst in the last quarter was enough for the team coached by Ettore Messina to pull a new 82-69 win over visiting Armani Jeans Milano in a Group D showdown. The guests were leading by 13 points, 36-49 right after the break, but a giant Novica Velickovic and the help of maverick guard Sergi Llull allowed the hosts to rip the game apart, much to the delight of the packed Palacio Vistalegre. The win allows Real Madrid to stand atop Group D with a 4-1 record at the halfpoint mark of the regular season together with Panathinaikos and BC Khimki, while AJ Milano drops to 1-4 and is fourth tied with Asseco Prokom and EWE Baskets. Velickovic led the winners with 21 points and 7 rebounds, Rimantas Kaukenas added 14, Travis Hansen posted 11 and Pablo Prigioni chipped in with 10. Llull stopped at 8 points, but it was a personal 8-0 run that boosted Real Madrid for good. For Milano, Jonas Maciulis was the leader with 20 points and Stefano Mancinelli helped with 16.
Two quick fouls for Armani Jeans Milano allowed Pablo Prigioni to score once from the line to start the game 1-0 for Real Madrid, but Mason Rocca scored twice from the same spot to give the guests their first advantage. Milano's defense started at full throttle, smothering Madrid in offense, while in the offensive end, the guests seemed to be moving the ball with more ease and Stefano Mancinelli shot a hook that went in, and right after a turnaround jumper for a 3-6 Milano edge. In a couple fast plays however, capped by Pablo Prigioni's triple, the hosts managed to tie the game, 8-8 and Novica Velickovic posted two free throws to make it 10-8. At this point, team captain Felipe Reyes came back to the courts after 50 days of injury, but Mancinelli kept punishing Madrid's basket as a few playes with quick baskets on both sides made it 15-13. Recalling his performance of last season in Madrid that earned him MVP honors, Mike Hall blasted 5 points in a row to keep Milano in business, and at the same time the guests' defense worked well again. The flurry of changes in Milano paid off as Jonas Maciulis made the three-point play for a 16-22 lead, but Travis Hansen finished off the quarter with a three for a 21-22 Milano lead.
The second quarter started with a Milano avalanche set for a 0-7 run including five straight points by Maciulis that forced the hosts to call a timeout after the 21-29 score. Real Madrid was out of the game at this point and Maciulis scored again after an offensive rebound that made it a double-digit lead, 21-31. After more than four minutes, a steal and transition finally allowed Velickovic to score for the hosts, and he soon did the same twice more for 27-33. Milano didn't panick however and kept controlling the defensive rebound, even if the defense of Madrid was starting to cause more trouble for Milano. Marco Mordente scored two free throws to maintain the gap, but the hosts managed to squeeze in two fast baskets after a Sergi Llull steal that made it 31-37. Mancinelli hit a monster three to keep things quiet but Velickovic slammed to be a one-man army for Madrid. Morris Finely scored after the offensive rebounds but Jorge Garbajosa hit a three on the buzzer to leave the final gap at the break at 9 points, 36-45.
Mancinelli opened the second half with a turnaround jumper for Milano and Maciulis joined him for a 13-point biggest lead, 36-49. Garbajosa replied soon for Real Madrid, who started with a strong character in the quarter, and more proof of that was Prigioni's three followed by Rimantas Kaukenas' fastbreak that soon cut the deficit down to 43-49. Milano was having serious problems all of a sudden in offense, as it committed its eighth turnover of the night allowing the hosts to go for a 7-0 burst. The game entered a crazy phase: Madrid was anxious to gain the lead back and Milano was struggling in offense, so neither team managed to score in six plays overall, but then Hansen appeared for the open three to make it 46-49. The stands roared knowing that the home team was on a positive streak, and to top it all, Finley was called a technical foul that allowed Louis Bullock to score two free throws but Mancinelli stole the ball in the following play to give Milano some air, 48-51. But Madrid was all fired up and Hansen capped a 22-4 run with a three to finally put the hosts in command, 55-53. Mancinelli replied with a basket plus foul but Prigioni closed the quarter with a new three to tie the game, 58-58.
Maciulis again, punsihed the basket of the hosts with a three to open the decisive quarter, and Marco Mordente copied him soon for a 0-6 burst that was only stopped by Kaukenas underneath, 60-64. But it was a three-point party for Milano as Maciulis blasted a new one, and it had to be Kaukenas again who stopped the guests. Hall was called a technical foul allowing Bullock to hit two from the line, 64-67, and in the subsequent play, Madrid almost expired the shot clock but Llull appeared with a providential three to tie the game again and bring the house down. He loved the situation and he repeated with a basket plus foul play that had the stands chanting his name as Real Madrid rocketed to a 10-0 run and a 70-67, the maximum lead for the hosts at that point. Milano was struggling bad due to the Madrid defense now, and on the other end Llull made it an 8-0 personal run and Velickovic joinde him for a tip-in that boosted the score to 74-67. Madrid's defense was a total nightmare for the guests now, forcing turnovers and making shot-clocks expire. Milano never gave up and fought for every ball, but neither did Madrid as Velickovic scored free throws and a fastbreak to make it 78-67 with 1:30 to go and seal the deal.
Thursday, November 26, 2009