In a scrappy Italian derby, Virtus won by playing Milan's style

Orazio Cauchi
Staff Writer
2022-11-10 07:30

Virtus Bologna conquered the win in the EuroLeague derby against Olimpia Milan. After a poor first half, Sergio Scariolo's team showed character and willingness to win. On the other hand, Olimpia Milan looked frightened and spineless, still looking for their true soul. 

Credit: Giuseppe Cottini/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Credit Giuseppe Cottini/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

In their first European matchup since 1997, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and Virtus Segafredo Bologna played a scrappy, hard-fought game with extremely limited offensive flow and defense as the main protagonist of the night.

It was yet another sign that these two teams are far from being perfect at the moment, but also proof that, right now, Virtus are just in a better shape than Milan. 

The team coached by Ettore Messina started the game in a very promising way. In the first quarter, Emporio Armani Milan scored 23 points and looked like a team in sync, both offensively and defensively, keeping Virtus under control and showing good quality on the offensive end. 

Player of the Game
Milos  Teodosic
Milos Teodosic
Points 15
Accuracy 5-7
Rebounds 2
Assists 4

But what good showed in the first quarter then totally disappeared in the rest of the contest. In the second quarter, Milan's defense appeared much less convincing, conceding 27 points to Virtus Bologna and going into the locker room with a 4-point disadvantage.

In the second half, Messina's team was simply unwatchable offensively. Milan could only score 24 points in the entire second half, scoring a pittance of 6 in the third quarter, which was a real nightmare for the hosts. 

Milan looked scared and frightened for the majority of the second half. They made a 24-seconds violation multiple times because no one seemed willing to take an open shot.

During the timeouts, Messina energetically asked his team to show some character. Still, his rants did not bring the desired effects, and the team entered a spiral of negativity that did not come out until the end of the game. 

"After the first quarter, there was kind of a collapse," Messina said in the post-game press conference. "We refused to take shots and decisions. We played with a sense of tragedy. If you score 60 points at home, that's no small problem. We can't create advantages, and it becomes really difficult to play if we refuse to take even good enough shots." 

The newcomers, including the two major summer additions, Kevin Pangos and Brandon Davies, are still far from being fully integrated into the team.

Pangos finished with 6 points and 4 assists in 27 minutes and didn't make a single 3-pointer in the entire game. Davies had 11 points and 3 rebounds but once again didn't look aggressive enough and rarely rolled to the rim after a pick & roll situation. 

Others, like Deshaun Thomas and Johannes Voigtmann, have been complete no-shows so far, both offensively and defensively. With Shavon Shields out with an injury, there's basically not a single player able to create something off the dribble.

The only one who's trying to give some speed and improvisation to the offense is Naz Mitrou-Long, who finished with 13 points and 4 assists last night and had the best plus/minus of the team (+11). Still, that can't be enough for a team with the ambitions that Milan has. 

One of the main qualities of this team is its ability to resist and show incredible character even in the most challenging moments. However, so far, even this feature looks completely absent. When things start to go wrong, this team falls completely and shows very little ability to react. 

This is already the third Milan home loss in EuroLeague and the third defeat in a row (the previous two came against Barcelona and Real Madrid). For a team that, compared to last season, was supposed to have much more options, Milan so far has failed to impress and still looks way behind in terms of team chemistry and offensive awareness. 

Yes, there's still time to fix things, but there's a genuine reason for concern in Milan now. 

On the other hand, Virtus Bologna won the Italian derby by using a quality that usually belongs to Milan: superb defense. The team coached by Sergio Scariolo, after allowing 23 points in the first quarter, kept Milan to only 36 points in the rest of the game. 

Virtus' defense was absolutely on point, putting a lot of pressure on the ball handlers and protecting the rim effectively. With an offensive system still in 'work in progress' mode, the defense made the difference in the victory in Milan. 

Sure, winning becomes easier when Milos Teodosic bails you out of trouble on multiple occasions, just like he did last night. The Serbian maestro finished with 15 points and 4 assists. Most importantly, he shot 5/6 from 3-point, saving Virtus' offense in several situations. 

"Milos was great, he was clinical despite a great defense on him," Sergio Scariolo confessed in the post-game conference. "He remained patient, and when he had the chance, he made some great shots from 3-point. Even defensively, he did the best he could."

The contribution given by Alessandro Pajola and Semi Ojeleye was also a really important factor in Virtus' win. Despite combining for only 6 points, the two players had a huge impact on the defensive end, helping to create that defensive wall against which Milan crushed in the second half. 

Marco Belinelli and Kyle Weems stayed on the bench for the entire game. For the Italian veteran guard, it's not the first time this has happened, while for the American wing, this is something new.

But as Sergio Scariolo is still trying to find a balance inside this roster, it's pretty clear that the coach is trying to prioritize defense over offense. 

"This is a very difficult team, with many backcourt players and very few big men," coach Scariolo stated. "We're still looking for the right balance. I am still in the midst of studying this situation."

In a game that wasn't exactly the representation of beautiful basketball, Virtus didn't need too much to overcome Olimpia Milan, just a strong defense and a bunch of great plays from its star Milos Teodosic. 

The two Italian sides didn't provide a great show, but after last night, one of them came out with a bit more confidence in its quality, while the other left the arena gasping for air but could not find it. 


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