BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Daniel Hackett was instrumental in Montepaschi Siena's first round success over Emporio Armani Milano |
Italy head coach Simone Pianigiani must have watched the final game of the Serie A quarter-final play-off series between Emporio Armani Milano and Montepaschi Siena on Wednesday with great satisfaction.
Not because Siena, his former club, prevailed 90-80 on the road in the decisive Game 7 to clinch the series and stay alive in their league title defence, but because Italy international Daniel Hackett was immense for the winners.
The combo guard stayed on the floor for 36 minutes as the guests established a firm grip on the encounter right from tip-off and he finished with a game-high 25 points and six assists, adding three rebounds.
Milano had taken a 2-0 lead in the series but Hackett kick-started Siena's impressive comeback by registering a double-double of 20 points and 11 assists in Game 3 to lead them to their first win in the series, 92-73, last week.
The 25-year-old then came up with an 18-point, 5-assist performance in Game 5 on Monday, when Siena won 72-66 and tied the series.
Another player that will take to the court at EuroBasket 2013 and was instrumental in Siena's triumph was Georgian international Viktor Sanikidze, who contributed 17 points and six rebounds in Game 7.
Meanwhile young Italian international Alessandro Gentile and veteran Greek Ioannis Bourousis had nine points each for Milano, who saw Keith Langford score 18 points in a losing effort.
The Serie A is the only of the major leagues in Europe to feature best-of-seven series already from the first round of the post-season.
Siena, the reigning champions, had finished in fifth place in the Regular Season and their success in overturning fourth-placed Milano's home-court advantage has been hailed as proof of the club's winning mentality.
The biggest however upset in the first round came on Tuesday, when seventh-placed Lenovo Cantu defeated Banco di Sardegna Sassari 97-95 in Game 7 to knock out of the title race a team that had taken second spot in the Regular Season.
Another Italian international, shooting guard Pietro Aradori, was the key player in Cantu's success, recording 12 points and two rebounds in the decider for the team of new Greece head coach Andrea Trinchieri.
In the other quarter-final match-ups, Regular Season winners Cimberio Varese won their series against Umana Venezia 4-1 while Acea Roma held on to their home-court advantage to prevail 4-3 over Trenkwalder Reggio Emilia.