Real (1-2) registered its first win this week, downing Khimki Moscow Region 94-85 behind 21 points from Sergio Llull and 19 off the bench from Nico Laprovittola. Milan (2-1) took an 86-75 road loss against Olympiacos Piraeus despite 18 points from Sergio Rodriguez. It will be a special game for Rodriguez, who played for Real for six seasons, earning EuroLeague MVP honors in 2015, reaching three consecutive continental championship games and lifting the trophy in 2015. Expect a fun-to-watch but intense game at Mediolanum Forum.
All eyes will be on Rodriguez, one of the most creative playmakers in European basketball history. Rodriguez is coming off the bench this season, as he used to do in Madrid, averaging 13.3 points on 50% three-point shooting. He will face his good friend Llull, who had an outstanding game against Khimki, missing just a couple of shots on his way to 21 points. His PIR of 26 is his highest since 2017. Two former EuroLeague MVPs face each other and you can take for granted that there will be no friends on the court.
Milan and Madrid meet for the 33rd time dating back more than half a century. Madrid not only has a 23-9 record in the series, but is on a 14-game winning streak covering more than a decade. Madrid has a 15-1 home record against Milan, including the 1967 championship game played in the Spanish capital. Madrid beat Milan 91-83 to claim its fourth continental crown. Madrid also edged Milan 82-81 in the 1984 Saporta Cup championship game played in Ostend, Belgium. Milan’s only road win in the Spanish capital came in the 2003-04 EuroCup, 61-62, on a game-winning shot by Lonnie Cooper.
Keys to victory: Real
As always for Real, it all starts with hard defense and pulling down defensive rebounds. If able to do both, Real can run the floor and find space for its many shooters. Los Blancos downed 17 three-point shots against Khimki, one shy of tying its all-time record. Edy Tavares and Usman Garuba must play physical and aggressive inside against Kyle Hines and Kaleb Tarczewski. Real has to find a way to prevent Rodriguez and Malcolm Delaney from dominating the game tempo, as Milan will have better chances in a five-on-five offense game.
Keys to victory: Milan
Milan only grabbed 6 offensive rebounds in its loss against Olympiacos and averages just 8.7 until now. Milan should try to crash the offensive boards better, which would help to stop Real’s transition game. Milan is without Vladimir Micov and Kevin Punter, so players like Gigi Datome, Delaney and Michael Roll will be ready to outscore high-quality offensive players such as Llull, Facu Campazzo and Jaycee Carroll. Hines will want to use his experience against Tavares and take him out of the paint, generating space for drives to the basket.