Shabazz Napier gave Milano the lead in the LBA Finals against Virtus Bologna

2023-06-09T22:40:58+00:00 2023-06-11T18:00:00+00:00.

Cesare Milanti

09/Jun/23 22:40

Ettore Messina’s team started the series against its fiercest rivals on a high note

By Cesare Milanti /

MILAN, Italy – After respectively overcoming pretty easily Dinamo Sassari and Derthona Tortona, Olimpia Milano and Virtus Bologna met in Mediolanum Forum with no empty seats for Game 1 of the LBA Finals. Following an intense 40-minute clash, the home side took home the first victory, beating the black-and-white rivals 92-82.

Pushing Ettore Messina’s team since the beginning, Shabazz Napier was the hero for the red-and-white side, scoring 22 points with 5/10 from beyond the arc, 5/6 at the line, and 3 assists. This is the fifth time the former Washington Wizards playmaker went over 20 points in the Italian league.

In front of his dear friend and New Orleans Pelicans‘ forward Trey Murphy III, who talked to Eurohoops during halftime, Devon Hall ended the game with 15 points and 5 assists. He had the concurrency of Kevin Pangos for making it to the roster tonight. Milano‘s captain Nicolò Melli contributed with 8 points and 6 rebounds.

On Virtus Bologna’s side, both Marco Belinelli and Milos Teodosic have been vital to create the gap in the first. The Italian captain ended Game 1 with a losing effort of 19 points and 8/9 from the charity stripe, while the Serbian playmaker scored 15 with 4/8 from three. Tornike Shengelia added 16 points and 6 rebounds, while the former Milano player Daniel Hackett provided 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Virtus Bologna started the game hot, and with Marco Belinelli’s long-two the black-and-white team was up 10-0 after 3:22 minutes. Shabazz Napier, who scored Milano’s points with a four-point play, was forced to leave the court early after committing two fouls. Despite its main creator’s absence, the red-and-white side managed to cut the deficit and close the first quarter up 21-19 with a three-pointer by the former Washington Wizards playmaker, who returned to the court for the last possession.

In the second quarter, both teams adjusted themselves on defense, containing the opponents’ main weapons. Virtus seemed to have the upper hand, going once again up by six points (32-26) with a three-pointer by Milos Teodosic with 5:08 left. Shabazz Napier went directly to the locker rooms with 3:53 minutes until halftime, and Bologna joined him with an eight-point lead (44-36).

Olimpia Milano came back to the court after halftime with the right spirit, producing an 18-7 run to come back up front especially thanks to Billy Baron and Johannes Voigtmann’s shots from deep. The two Italian EuroLeague representatives went to the fourth quarter in the most balanced and reasonable way, seeing the level of intensity and physicality shared on the court.

Virtus closed up by one (64-63), but Olimpia Milano looked way better on offense in the last ten minutes, managing to go up by six points for the first time in the game with 5:20 left thanks to a putback layup by Shavon Shields. The 29-year-old small forward followed with a clutch three-pointer, and from then on Ettore Messina’s team managed to keep control of the encounter, winning Game 1.

Paul Biligha was ejected with 30:10 seconds left following an altercation between the two sides. Ettore Messina decided to sideline Kevin Pangos, Brandon Davies, Nazareth Mitrou-Long, DeShaun Thomas, and Davide Alviti. Like in the Semifinals series won against Derthona 3-0, Sergio Scariolo made it to Milano without Ismael Bako, Gabriel Iffe Lundberg, Kyle Weems, and Leo Menalo.

Following the win in Game 1, Olimpia Milano will face Virtus Bologna in the second clash of this third straight LBA Finals best-of-seven series on May 11 at 18:00 CET. Ettore Messina’s will have the opportunity to go to Bologna up 2-0. Last year, the red-and-white started 1-0 on the road.

LBA Finals results and schedule

Olimpia Milano – Virtus Bologna, G1: 92-82
Olimpia Milano – Virtus Bologna, G2 (11/06 at 18:00 CET)
Virtus Bologna – Olimpia Milano, G3 (14/06 at 20:30 CET)
Virtus Bologna – Olimpia Milano, G4 (16/06 at 20:30 CET)
Olimpia Milano – Virtus Bologna, Eventual G5 (19/06 at 20:30 CET)
Virtus Bologna – Olimpia Milano, Eventual G6 (21/06 at 20:30 CET)
Olimpia Milano – Virtus Bologna, Eventual G7 (23/06 at 20:30 CET)

PHOTO CREDIT: Olimpia Milano