Zalgiris downs Milan to stay perfect at home 12
With its best defense of the season, Zalgiris Kaunas turned back visiting EA7 Emporio Armani Milan for a tough-as-nails 71-62 home win on Friday. Zalgiris (5-3) remains perfect at home this season, while Milan (3-5) lost its fourth in a row.
Keenan Evans led the offensive charge for Zalgiris with 23 points, his EuroLeague career high. Rolands Smits was the other steady for the winners, with 10 points and 10 rebounds, but the defensive effort was collective and included 3 steals from Kevarrius Hayes.
Milan got 19 points, all in the final 12 minutes, from Naz Mitrou-Long and 11 from Kevin Pangos. Milan was held to just 33 points through 28 minutes before Mitrou-Long got hot, but Zalgiris had the answers down the stretch.
Ignas Brazdeikis, from deep, and Smits combined for a 7-2 Zalgiris start as Milan was held scoreless for 3 minutes and missed its first 7 three-point tries. Pangos broke that streak and Johannes Voigtmann got the visitors within 11-12, but Larynas Birutis hit 4 free throws to close the quarter at 16-11.
Lukas Lekavicius and Evans boosted the lead to 22-15 early in the second quarter. Nicolo Melli kept Milan close but Evans, Brazdeikis and Tyler Cavanaugh, from deep, made it 29-18. Pangos stole to end the 7-0 Zalgiris run before he and Evans traded triples, but Smits had the last word with a put-back for a 34-24 halftime lead.
Evans buried a transition triple soon after the break for the biggest lead yet, 41-28. Milan couldn’t buy a basket until Devon Hall and Mitrou-Long combined on 3 three-pointers to cut the difference to 47-39. Evans and Lekavicius restored a double-digit lead before Davide Alviti and Mitrou-Long resumed sniping to suddenly get Milan within 40-45 early in the fourth. Evans struck back but Alviti and Voigtmann put Milan within 53-49 with 6:50 to play. To the rescue came Brazdeikis and Arnas Butkevicius, whose steal-and-layup was followed by a triple at 60-49. Mitrou-Long almost single-handedly cut it to 63-58 before Zalgiris shut the door at the foul line to win.