Victor Wembanyama rushes into a counterattack with big strides, projects himself into two dribbles into the other area and releases the ball towards Youssoupha Fall (58-67, 33′). Too strong, not precise enough, the caviar passes way above the Senegalese spindle and goes straight into the stands. Bad luck, twist of fate, we can’t tell you, but this easy basket, stupidly wasted, sums up in itself the difficult season in the EuroLeague that ASVEL has just wrapped up against Milan. “Despite everything, we make a positive assessment, judge TJ Parker, the Rhone coach. We’ve made an incredible start and it can’t be taken away from us. Yes, there are many games regrets, but overall we are not going to say it was a bad season. †
Beaten to the limit by Italians reduced by the Covid-19 (Rodriguez, Datome, Shields & Co’), the Rhodaniens nevertheless sold their hide dearly against one of the best-armed teams of the Old Continent, which should finish 3rd in the event of Real Madrid’s win over Bayern Munich on Friday. Just like last October (73-72), ASVEL will come to the Italians (80-81) at some point. “I’m happy with this win, because given the circumstances it was easy to give up,” Ettore Messina, the Milan coach, who won for the first time in his career at Astroballe, under the watchful eye of Antoine Rigaudeau. There were many reasons not to conclude, but we did. It’s the best way for us to prepare for the play-offs. †
With his number 23 behind, David Lighty, author of 28 points, kept ASVEL at bay against Milan.
“We didn’t give up against Milan: it was fun”
Author of his EuroLeague points record (28) and determined to give the Astroballe one last European success, David Lighty missed one of his two free throws 10 seconds from time to send the game into overtime. But how can you blame him… ASVEL’s Keystone, absent too often this season, gave the Clevelandais a helping hand when his people needed it. He was one of ASVEL’s lungs. Victor Wembanyama, increasingly comfortable at long distance (4/5 behind the arc) and author of 18 points, was the other.
“Milan made incredible shots at key moments in the game, but that’s part of basketball… I’m super proud of my team, we didn’t give up, it was fun. We just need the win. “Even with the two successes against CSKA Moscow and Kazan, not counting because the Russians have been excluded from the C1, ASVEL is far from the target and its objective, shown at the beginning of the season, to do better than the thirteen successes achieved on the European stage in 2020-2021.
In a match that went to last possession, @OlimpiaMI1936 escaped the Astroballe on Thursday night with an 80-81 win over LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne.
—Turkish Airlines EuroLeague (@EuroLeague) Apr 7, 2022
Perhaps with a little more collective experience and automatism, ASVEL would have had more problems in the EuroLeague. Since November 11, the Rhone team has chained 20 defeats in 23 matches. From a “French team” that was so generous and attractive last season, the Rhodaniens had more trouble this year. Admittedly, they paid for the reigning European champion, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, but other than this little pleasure, it’s very hard to put anything in their mouth…
“We come out frustrated, we have not been able to find a solution”
Mitigating circumstances: TJ Parker will never have been able to count on all his vitals this European season, between repeated Covid-19 cases and numerous crossovers in infirmary. “We never found our cruising speed,” summarizes Charles Kahudi, sidelined because of his knee. We were influenced, undermined. We come out frustrated, we have not been able to find a solution. However, there was a lot of potential, we couldn’t confirm it…”
Kostas Antetokounmpo sometimes struggles to find his place in Villeurbannaise’s selection in the EuroLeague.
The Villeurbannais staff had to do without the services of Elie Okobo (shoulder), three months without Victor Wembanyama (fever, broken finger and shoulder blade), like David Lighty, a blow in the hand. And what about Raymar Morgan, who played his first game of the season against Olympiakos at the end of March… “When you lose 40% of your five majors, it’s complicated. David Lighty played 11 games, Raymar Morgan played 1, Antoine Diot played 17, Victor played 14, lists TJ Parker. I won’t list them all, but we need our key players in the EuroLeague to exist. †
If, of course, the hierarchy settled on the back lines, where Elie Okobo and Chris Jones formed arguably one of the best duos in Europe, the machine has stalled. And ASVEL really suffered inside. A lack of symbiosis, of a clear division of responsibilities between Kostas Antetokoumpo, Dylan Osetkowski, Youssoupha Fall, James Gist and Victor Wembanyama. “When you have a group of 15 it’s hard because they all want to play, but we had to make strong choices and that’s how it is,” TJ Parker eludes.
“Don’t start from scratch”
Biggest budget in the history of the Championship (15 M €) pending the move of AS Monaco, ASVEL sees itself competing with the Roca team, new in this C1, qualified in the play-offs, assured of evolving to the Queen of Europe matches next year. “We don’t have the same budget and we don’t have the same team as Monaco, but we have to try to work on continuity,” says TJ Parker, who, like ASVEL, has had his first “real” season of EuroLeague. We have to try to keep players so as not to start over every season. If you rearrange your team in the summer, preparing for the season is essential, because after that you don’t train anymore. There are too many games…”
It is certainly this time of preparation, of dialogues, of exchanges that ASVEL has seriously lacked to strengthen its group. † We havea lot to learn this year. We will learn good lessons, we will grow †promises Charles Kahudi.
Now that the European season is over, ASVEL can fully concentrate on the French Championship, where they aim for a third national crown in a row. Especially since TJ Parker knows the recipe: last year, relieved of any European commitment, ASVEL had won 23 of the last 25 encounters in all competitions (Coupe de France and Play-offs included). Bis repeated this year, before gaining consistency in the EuroLeague?
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With his 24 units, Malcolm Delaunay will have been one of ASVEL’s executioners, depriving it of one last European victory, at the Astroballe.