On a night that almost went to triple overtime for the first time in EuroLeague history, the ASVEL fans have reason to be optimistic, despite losing.
LDLC Arena served up an unforgettable opening night
The game might have ended with a heartbreaking defeat for their team, but the LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne fans still enjoyed an unforgettably memorable night when FC Bayern Munich rolled into town on Thursday – for many reasons.
First and foremost, and with significant positive implications for the future of the club and French basketball, was the long-awaited grand opening of the brand-new LDLC Arena, a world-class facility which opened its doors for the very first time and left excited fans purring in admiration at the splendor of their new home.
The fans – and celebrities – came out in numbers
The immediate impact of the new LDLC Arena was obvious from the attendance: 11,354 spectators, more than double the number of fans who came to watch ASVEL’s last game at the old Astroballe venue.
The fans had turned out in full force to see the new place with their own eyes, and so had the celebrities. Recently retired French tennis star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga claimed a courtside seat, along with several members of the Lyon soccer team whose stadium is right next door, and a bunch of former ASVEL players.
And, of course, ASVEL president Tony Parker was also on hand to see his long-cherished ambition become a reality. Parker has worked hard to ensure the facilities available to ASVEL match his high ambitions for the club’s future, and when he stepped onto the court to address the fans before the game, his pride was palpable.
After all that, there was the small matter of a game to play. And what a game it would prove to be.
A new dawn under Coach Pozzecco
Under the charismatic leadership of relatively new coach Gianmarco Pozzecco, ASVEL has become a much more competitive team in the last few weeks. But both the team’s victories under the Italian playcaller had come on the road, so there was an obvious incentive – aside from christening the new arena in the best possible way – for ASVEL to claim the victory on Thursday.
But Bayern has also been steadily improving in recent weeks, and no team coached by the hyper-competitive Pablo Laso is ever going to let sentimentality get in the way of the hunger for success.
So, a real fight on the court is what everyone expected and that’s exactly what we got, as two determined teams went head-to-head for 40, then 45, and finally 50 minutes.
The surreal swings of momentum in the final stages were pure madness, with both teams at different times seemingly having the outcome under control before an improbable series of events repeatedly left everything in the balance again.
ASVEL fan favorite David Lighty hit a triple for a last-minute lead; Leandro Bolmaro missed a potential game-winning free throw with 6 seconds left in regulation; Carsen Edwards missed a free throw after coming off the bench to replace the injured Bolmaro; Joffrey Lauvergne missed 4 consecutive free throws in overtime but then slammed a thrilling fastbreak dunk for a lead with 11 seconds left; Nick Weiler-Babb's improbable three-pointer made it a tie with 6 seconds remaining in the first overtime period; Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scoring 7 points in 2 minutes; Paris Lee scoring 5 in 35 seconds; Sylvain Francisco hitting 2 three-pointers in 40 seconds...
History was almost made
All of them could have been decisive, but ultimately none of them were. Instead, with the game just 2 seconds away from becoming the first in EuroLeague history to go to triple overtime, an offensive foul by Lauvergne and a free throw by Niels Giffey was enough to settle the outcome of a game that simply had everything.
Everything, that is, except a home win on an historic night. But, considering the unmatched entertainment they enjoyed on their first trip to their new home, ASVEL fans will surely be back. And so will their team.