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Red Star is coming to Milano, Coach Messina: “Defense and a sharp offense will be necessary”


Olimpia made its return to Milano from Munich at mid-day on Wednesday to prepare for the second EuroLeague battle of the week, this time against Red Star Belgrade, coming off a loss on the road against AS Monaco. In Germany, Olimpia suffered the first season loss despite some promising numbers, like the 73 percent on two-point shooting, by far the best such performance of the year, made possible by the 19-fo-25 shooting combined of three bigs Melli-Mitoglou-Hines plus Datome; or the five players who scored in double figure o the assists number, twice the one amassed by Bayern, forced to produce its scoring off one-on-one situations. On the other side, Olimpia allowed 22 trips to the line (and Bayern made the most of them, making 21 free throws) and the three-point shooting percentage, a 3-for-19 nightmare that frustrated the last comeback attempt. Besides, Milano had never allowed more than 80 points in a single game. They were 13 above the season average entering into the game. Obviously, Olimpia will have to deal again with Malcolm Delaney absence, a blow that, among all things, made the rotation shorter and forced Devon Hall to play most of the game at the point-guard position, where he dished six assists by the way. Red Star has lost the last three games, but one of them was a two-point road loss in Moscow. It is a team with a clear defensive mindset: when it was able to score more than 70 points, Red Star won two games out of three, and lost by two in Moscow; when it failed to reach 70 lost three games out of three. It is true that it averages just 67.7 points per game, but it also allows 68.5 points. Tip-off time on Thursday, 28 October, is at 20:30.

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “We are coming off a loss in Munich and we want to respond with a good game, and the defensive effort necessary to win at this level. We are aware that Red Star is a very physical team and a very efficient one defensively. Against them, we’ll need to be very sharp on offense, with the required ball movement and spacing.”

NICOLO’ MELLI – “I’m expecting a very tough game as always in the EuroLeague and especially during a week with two close games and very demanding. We are coming from the first loss and it is good to have immediately the opportunity to try to get back on track in front of our people.”

THE REFEREES – Damir Javor (Croatia), Mehdi Difallah (France), Vassilis Pitsilkas (Greece)

RED STAR The most consistent Red Star player has been Nate Wolters so far. The American point guard (14.0 points and 4.7 assists per game) is also shooting an impressive for a guard 74.4 percent from two-point distance. Wolters and Nikola Kalinic, who came back to Red Star following his successful years at Fenerbahce and the single season spent in Valencia, have always started so far. Kalinic is averaging 12.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in his customary all-around effort. Center Ognjen Kuzmic, who played for Golden State in the NBA too, is averaging 8.5 points and 5.3 rebounds over 18.3 minutes on the court. He is converting 75.3 percent of his shots. These three players are the team cornerstones. More crucial players are Ognjen Dobric, a perimeter player coming off the bench to average 8.8 points per game, the American swingman Austin Hollins (5.6 points per game), the forward Dejan Davidovac, power forward Luka Mitrovic (7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game). Branko Lazic and Marko Simonovic are providing a lot of experience and solidity coming off the bench, as Maik Zirbes does.

HISTORY – In 1972, Simmenthal defeated the Red Star 74-70 in the Cup Winners’ Cup championship game (23 points were scored by Arthur Kenney, the virtual MVP of the competition), held in Thessaloniki. The two teams had also faced each other during the preliminary round with two wins for the home team. The two teams also met in the 1973 European Cup, for two more Simmenthal wins. During the 1984/85 season, Olimpia eliminated Red Star in the Korac Cup semifinal winning both games and proceeding then to win the cup against Varese in the championship game. Two more games and two more wins came also during the 1988/89 Korac Cup. In the EuroLeague, Red Star has won six games in a row, including the Milan game of the 2020/21 season. Olimpia broke the losing streak by winning in Belgrade in the return game of the 2020/21 season. 9-7 then the All-time record in favor of Milan.

THE CONNECTION – Aaron White played part of the 2019/20 season in Milan, but due to an injury he has not yet made his debut with Red Star in the current edition of the EuroLeague. Gigi Datome and Nicolò Melli played alongside Nikola Kalinic with Fenerbahce, and Sergio Rodriguez was a teammate of Ognjen Kuzmic in Real Madrid.

GAME NOTES – Nicolò Melli became in Munich the 20th player in history to grab at least 1.000 rebounds in the EuroLeague history, he is now 19th in the all-time list. On his way to that milestone, Melli grabbed his 300th rebound for Olimpia. Kyle Hines is three rebounds shy of 1,500 in his career: he would be the fifth to reach this milestone. Gigi Datome over the last three games has increased his scoring average from 2.0 to 10.1 points per game, while shooting 8-for-14 from two and 5-for-10 from three. Nicolò Melli over the last two games: 15.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, 9-for-12 from two.