EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv played out a classic in Game 1 of their Euroleauge Playoff series. After a tussle throughout regulation and a late comeback by Tel-Aviv, the Israeli powerhouse claimed a 99-101 victory in overtime.
The win puts Maccabi 1-0 ahead in the best of five series that will decide who progresses to the next round. Milan will no doubt be disappointed after losing a strong lead at home to lose the game, but the Italians will live to fight another day.
Milan got the scoring underway when David Moss struck early from downtown to give the Italians a 3-0 lead. Ricky Hickman responded with his own triple to start what would be an explosive personal performance, while he also tied the game at 3-3. After a Daniel Hackett layup for the hosts, Sofoklis Schortsanitis made a three point play with a layup and free throw to give Electra Tel-Aviv its first lead at 5-6. The teams traded scores through minutes five, six, and seven until the board read 14-13 after Hackett once again restored Milan´s lead from the charity strip. David Blu retook the lead for the visitors, but Nicolo Melli sunk from behind the arc to make it 17-15, before following up with another triple to cap a 6-0 run. Curtis Jerrells made it a six point game for EA7 (23-17) as the first quarter ended, but Joe Ingles hit 100% from the line to cut the score to 23-19 after 10 minutes.
Milan extended its lead at the start of the second frame when Gani Lawal hit two free throws to ignite the Mediolanum Forum, the venue of the season´s Final Four. Devin Smith registered Tel-Aviv´s first basket of the second period, but EA7 was in the groove and Lawal was pacing the Italian club early in the second. Another two free throws and a dunk sandwiched a Joe Ingles jumper for Maccabi Electra to make it 29-23. Guy Pnini kept the visitors in touch with a three pointer (29-26), but Lawal struck again with a two pointer in the paint to make it 31-26 after 14 minutes. Lawal had scored all of Milan´s eight points in the second stanza, but when he dried up so did the team. That allowed Electra Tel-Aviv to hit five points without reply to tie the game again at 31-31 with five minutes of the first half remaining. The Israeli teams´ good work was undone as EA7 restricted them for two minutes and reeled off two triples courtesy of Kristjan Kangur and Jerrells (37-31). Over the remainder of the half the two teams traded scores, although Tel-Aviv cut the deficit to five points, with the board reading 47-42 heading into the locker room.
Keith Langford carried the Milan charge at the start of the third, hitting six points alongside a triple from Samardo Samuels and a single free throw from Jerrells. The visitors replied through a couple from Hickman at the charity strip and a single from Schortsanitis, but it was not enough and suddenly Milan had carved out a 12 point advantage (57-45). Tel-Aviv had it all to do from this point if it was to win the game, but first the Israeli club had to stem the scoring of Milan first. Over the remainder of the third the zone defense got tighter, but more importantly Tel-Aviv found the basket more consistently. However, the teams could only trade baskets and Milan held onto its twelve points lead after 30 minutes, with the score now 70-58.
Schortsanitis opened the fourth stanza scoring with a lay-up, but Hackett hit back for Milan to maintain the deficit (72-60). Hickman found net from downtown and Yogev Ohayon laid up to give Tel-Aviv a 0-5 run and offer a glimmer of hope at 72-65. That hope was snatched a minute later when Hackett took two points and Lawal scored another three (76-65), leaving Electra with a mountain to climb. Over the middle of the fourth quarter the teams traded and it looked as though Milan would cruise to victory with the score sitting at 82-70 with 3 minutes left. Suddenly the visitors exploded and scored the next 12 points through Hickman, Samardo, and Tyrese Rice to tie the game once more at 82 apiece. The teams matched each other during minute 40 to send the game into an unlikely overtime (87-87).
Suddenly Electra Tel-Aviv was in the ascendency and the team opened the added frame with a jumper from Rice and a dunk from Alex Tyus. A four point advantage had been opened at 91-87, and although Milan hit back through Langford and Hackett, Tel-Aviv held the lead thanks to scores from Samuels and Rice. With the seconds winding down the Israelis held on to record an impressive comeback win.