By Cesare Milanti / info@Eurohoops.net
MILAN, Italy – No surprises as of now in these first games of the LBA Semifinals. Following the two Game 1s in which both Milano and Virtus Bologna got a 23-point margin victory, the red-and-white side confirmed its good momentum by beating Dinamo Sassari 80-75, and going up 2-0 in the series.
For the winning side, both Luigi Datome and Shavon Shields were convincing on the offensive end. The 35-year-old Italian forward had one of the best games of his season with 19 points and 4/6 from three, while the former Baskonia small forward had a performance of 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists. Billy Baron and Shabazz Napier combined for 27 points.
Eimantas Bendzius was Dinamo Sassari’s leader in the first two quarters, going to the locker room with 14 points and 4/7 from beyond the arc. The Lithuanian forward ended the game with 21 points, becoming the third-best-scorer ever in the Sardinian club’s history after Emanuele Rotondo and Travis Diener. Chris Dowe added 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists in exciting fashion.
The away team approached the encounter in a way better mode than the previous game, fighting under the rim for offensive rebounds and forcing Milano to some turnovers, and ending the first quarter up 19-13. Piero Bucchi’s team found a nine-point lead with 8:25 left in the second quarter, giving continuity to its impressive start. Gigi Datome led Milano’s comeback before halftime, and the reigning Italian champions reduced the gap only to one point (29-28) at 4:24 before halftime, getting the first lead of the game with a three-pointer by Billy Baron (32-31) two minutes later, closing the second quarter at 39-38.
In the third quarter, Milano and Sassari remained close, as the red-and-white side kept control of the game without extending the lead too much. Thanks to a classy floater with 21 seconds until the end of the third, Chris Dowe put Dinamo only two points behind, but Datome went 2/2 at the line for the 60-56. From then on, despite Dinamo Sassari’s comeback attempt, Olimpia Milano never turned back, pushed by an almost packed Mediolanum Forum, with the Indiana Pacers‘ center Daniel Theis and the volleyball superstar Paola Egonu in the stands as well.
Unlike in Game 1, Ettore Messina couldn’t have Paul Biligha due to a subluxation of his right shoulder, and Davide Alviti replaced him in the red-and-white roster. The Italian head coach also decided to sideline Brandon Davies, DeShaun Thomas, Nazareth Mitrou-Long, and Devon Hall. Piero Bucchi, instead, had his entire roster, with the only exception being Luca Gandini.
Olimpia Milano will now have the opportunity to close the series by winning the away Game 3, scheduled on June 1 at 21:00 CET, in Sassari’s PalaSerradimigni. Virtus Bologna, instead, will play on May 30 Game 2 against Derthona Tortona after convincingly taking the 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series at home.
LBA Semifinals Schedule and Results:
Olimpia Milano – Dinamo Sassari, G1: 95-72
Olimpia Milano – Dinamo Sassari, G2: 80-75
Dinamo Sassari – Olimpia Milano, G3 (01/06 at 21:00 CET)
Dinamo Sassari – Olimpia Milano, Eventual G4 (03/06 at 21:00 CET)
Olimpia Milano – Dinamo Sassari, Eventual G5 (05/06 at 21:00 CET)
Virtus Bologna – Derthona Tortona, G1: 84-61
Virtus Bologna – Derthona Tortona, G2 (30/05 at 21:00 CET)
Derthona Tortona – Virtus Bologna, G3 (02/06 at 21:00 CET)
Derthona Tortona – Virtus Bologna, Eventual G4 (04/06 at 21:00 CET)
Virtus Bologna – Derthona Tortona, Eventual G5 (06/06 at 21:00 CET)
PHOTO CREDIT: Olimpia Milano