The final series enters its decisive phase with Race 4. It is not a potential “elimination game” and there are no match-points to play, because the series is only 2-1, but the importance of the match at the Mediolanum Forum is not questionable. So far, whoever has won the rebound battle has also won the game, but the difference in Game 3 has narrowed. The third game was played with the same intensity as the other two, but a better offensive quality as the score tells. In the first two games, the two teams only scored at least twenty in a quarter twice, once per game, but on Sunday evening Olimpia scored 31 points in the first quarter and 30 in the third period. The downside is that Bologna also scored a lot (50 points overall in the same two quarters). It is not conceivable which turn Race 4 will take, if the offensive trend will continue or if we will return to play with a low score and low percentages as happened in the Bolognese segment of the series. In the third game, Milan had a lot from the second quintet. Beyond the individual figures, in the nine minutes spent on the field by Paul Biligha, Olimpia prevailed by two points and in the seven by Tommaso Baldasso by five. The other key factor was Nicolò Melli, who scored 15 points in the second half playing with three fouls against him, the ones that had killed him in the first half. He was good at not being conditioned by the problem and returning to the field concentrated and effective in the second half. So far, Olimpia has always used the same quintet, keeping Melli off the bench; Virtus made a change in Race 3 replacing Daniel Hackett with Alessandro Pajola, but Hackett himself was the best of him with 34 points in 25 minutes. For Olimpia it is the 82nd battle of the season.
No.OTE – Game 4 will be played on Tuesday 14 June at 20:30 at the Mediolanum Forum. Tickets are sold out. The series will subsequently move to Bologna for Race 5 (at 8.45pm), scheduled for Thursday 16 June.
THE MATCH REFEREES 4 – Boris Ryzhyk, Michele Rossi, Lorenzo Baldini.
RACE 1: VIRTUS-OLIMPIA 62-66 – Low score especially at the beginning when Olimpia scored 11 points in five minutes and two in the second five minutes of the first period while remaining in the lead. The most effective was Kyle Hines in converting Sergio Rodriguez’s assists (seven at the end). Shavon Shields scored all of his 18 points in the middle quarters. In the third he led Olimpia’s escape which, with the complicity of Datome and Rodriguez, reached a 13 advantage, 10 (50-40) at the end of the period. In the fourth quarter, Virtus attempted a comeback and returned to minus two. At that moment, Bentil set two free throws and Datome signed the points of the new extension, then protected by the two free throws centered by Hall.
RACE 2: VIRTUS-OLIMPIA 75-68 – Another defensive battle with some ups and downs. Olimpia controls the first quarter, escaping even more than nine at 13-4, but with fouls problems for both longs of the quintet, Kyle Hines and Ben Bentil. With the rotation upset, she went to the interval in a draw by responding to the first advantage of Virtus signed by eight consecutive points by Marco Belinelli. In the second half, it dropped to minus seven, returning to minus one at the end of the third period. In the fourth quarter, Virtus gradually took control of the game.
RACE 3: OLYMPIA-VIRTUS 94-82 – The game is in total countertrend with the first two, attacks in evidence from the beginning with Olimpia jumping forward 19-10 and then scoring 31 points in the initial period but despite this has only four points of advantage that Virtus cancels In the second. Olimpia tries to stretch again in the second half of the third period and here the advantage no longer falls below five points and reaches 12. Milan wins the rebound duel, but not by much, scores 11 triples and has a lot from Melli ( 22 in 20 minutes despite the three fouls committed in the first half), Shields (19 of which 14 in the first) and Grant who produces 14 points in 17 minutes.
GAME NOTES – Olimpia had appeared at the beginning of this final averaging 90.0 points in the playoffs, but had stopped at 67.0 in the first two games. However, the 94 in Race 3 are also the seasonal maximum in the post-season. For the seventh time out of nine, Olimpia have hit at least 10 three-point baskets in the same match. With eight assists in Game 3, Sergio Rodriguez now has 370 in his career with Olimpia, fourth ever. Nicolò Melli’s 22 points in Race 3 are his career high in the playoffs, the second round of the season after the 27 scored in Trento in the regular season and the third overall (he had scored 24 points against Roma in the 2013/14 season). Shavon Shields in the final: 17.3ppg and 6.0rpg, 55.6% from three. Gigi Datome in the final: 12.0 points per game with 62.5% from two. In the playoffs, the second Olimpia player to assist, after Sergio Rodriguez, is Kyle Hines with 29, over three on average. Hines also has 16 blocks.
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