Maccabi gets past Milan to stay unbeaten at home
Maccabi Tel Aviv gathered its 10th win in as many home games this season by downing AX Armani Exchange Milano 69-63 at Menora Mivtachim Arena on Thursday night. Maccabi improved to 14-6 after finishing the double-week with two wins. Milan dropped to 10-10 with the opposite outcome; two defeats in two games. The Israeli champs couldn’t get their first lead until Scottie Wilbekin scored a three-pointer-plus-foul play right after halftime, but once the hosts took charge they never looked back. Milan never gave up and got within 52-51 entering the fourth quarter, but the duo of Wilbekin and Othello Hunter secured the win from both outside and inside. Wilbekin led all scorers with 22 points on 4-of-9 three-point shooting and added 4 assists for Maccabi. Othello Hunter followed him with a monster double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds while Tyler Dorsey chipped in 13 points. Keifer Sykes and Nemanja Nedovic had 11 and 10 points respectively for the losing side.
The visitors showed up strong in the early going pushed by Nemanja Nedovic, who poured in back-to-back three-pointers to put Milan in front 0-8. Maccabi responded through Wilbekin, but Luis Scola and Kaleb Tarczeswki allowed the visitors to keep an 8-12 lead midway through the first quarter. Consecutive buzzer-beating buckets by Vladimir Micov and Amedeo Della Valle sustained Milan’s lead later despite Elijah Bryant’s first triple as Sergio Rodriguez beat the buzzer once again with a sweet pull-up jumper to close the first quarter with Milan ahead 15-21. With both squads moving up defensive gears, Della Valle hit from downtown to make it 16-25, but a strong run led by Dorsey brought Maccabi within 23-25 after 14 minutes. The game turned into a free-throw contest for a while, with both teams missing several of them and unable to connect two productive offenses in a row. Deni Avdija made it a 1-point game, but Sergio Rodriguez buried a timely three-pointer to cool it down for the visitors. Quincy Acy answered from the same spot entering the last minute, as no one else was able to score again before the first half finished with the visitors leading 31-32.
Wilbekin gave Maccabi its first lead of the night with a 4-point play and repeated from downtown later to bring the fans to their feet. Nate Wolters followed him with another bucket of its own to make it 42-36 and force Coach Ettore Messina to call a timeout. Dorsey extended the lead to 45-36 with another bomb right after that, capping a 17-4 run in just 5 minutes. Milan prevented the hosts from escaping thanks to the trio of Keyfer Sykes, Paul Biligha and Michael Roll, for a 2-9 run that reduced the gap to 47-45. Dorsey and Wilbekin took over from long-distance to keep Maccabi ahead 52-48 entering the last 2 minutes, which flew away with no team able to score. Roll remained hot early in the fourth by scoring a contested three, but Wilbekin took up the challenge and replied with two three-point shots of his own. Hunter followed him and hit twice from the line to help Maccabi build a 60-51 lead with 7 minutes remaining. Milan didn’t panic, though, as Rodriguez and Sykes responded with back-to-back triples to tighten it again. Hunter and Dorsey combined to strike back and make it 66-57, right before Micov and Sykes knocked down a couple of threes to bring Milan within 66-63. Wilbekin drove inside to score a rainbow layup to keep the visitors at a safe distance, 68-63, entering the last minute. Milan had another chance after Wilbekin traveled and Hunter missed a couple of free throws, but neither Sykes nor Rodriguez were able to connect from long distance and Hunter sealed another home from the line.
AX Armani Exchange Milano reached halftime leading by just 1 point after being ahead for the first 20 minutes, even though its biggest margin was 16-25. Maccabi took charge in the second half right after the break, but it couldn’t escape further than 9 points either and had to wait till the last minute to secure the win.
What a duo!
Scottie Wilbekin and Othello Hunter became the go-to-couple for Maccabi in the second half. The former had scored only 5 points at halftime, while the latter had only 3 points and 3 rebounds at that point. But when the Israeli champs needed them most, they showed up strong. Wilbekin scored 17 in the last 20 minutes, as Hunter added 11 points and 11 rebounds in that time.
Cursed at the line
Both teams displayed horrendous accuracy from the free-throw line. The home team was 10 of 21 overall (47.6%), while the visitors weren’t much better with just 10 out of 17 attempts (58.8%).
In Round 21 next week, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv visits FC Bayern Munich on Thursday, January 23, while AX Armani Exchange Milan visits Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul.
Thursday, January 16, 2020