Monaco atop Group E after beating Joventut
AS Monaco dominated the second half en route to a 97-82 victory over Joventut Badalona on Tuesday at Stade Louis II to move atop Group E. After leading by a single point at halftime, Monaco used a 14-2 third-quarter run to take control for good. Rob Gray led the winners with 23 points, J.J. O'Brien scored 21, Dee Bost recorded his first career double-double with 17 points and 11 assists and Marcos Knight added 16 points. Nenad Dimitrijevic paced Joventut in defeat with 15 points and Joel Parra netted 14. Conor Morgan scored 11 and Xabi Lopez-Arostegui and Ante Tomic had 10 each. The result left both teams with 3-1 records in the Top 16, but Monaco's 15-point victory gave it first place and the -head-to-head tiebreaker since Joventut won their previous encounter by just 7. Joventut, which had won six in a row, would have clinched a quarterfinals berth with a win.
Joventut won the opening tip and went ahead with a Lopez-Arostegui triple on the game's first possession. Tomic racked up a pair of assists and a baby hook before Ferran Bassas capped a 0-10 start with a three-pointer. O'Brien's basket-plus-foul got Monaco on the scoreboard and Knight helped the hosts further narrow the deficit to 10-14 midway through the first quarter. Gray came off the bench and scored 7 quick points to complete the comeback and send Monaco ahead for the first time. A three by O'Brien capped a 14-0 run that put the hosts up 7. Simon Birgander's layup stopped the bleeding for Joventut and Lopez-Arostegui free throws completed a 0-7 run for a 22-23 lead after 10 minutes. The lead changed hands with each of the first two baskets of the second quarter. Morgan knocked down a pair of threes for Joventut, but Monaco stayed close and a three by Bost made it 34-35 midway through the second quarter. Rudy Demahis knocked down a three from the corner to tie the game at 39-39. Monaco could not solve Parra, who had a career-high 12 points in the first half, but Gray was even hotter with a three and a layup to nudge his team ahead and the score settled at 46-45 at the break.
Joventut committed 5 turnovers on its first six possessions of the second half as Monaco extended the lead to 55-48 on a three by Abdoulaye Ndoye. Gray capped a 14-2 run that stretched the margin to 62-50 with his fourth-three-pointer of the game. Joventut went inside to Vladimir Brodziansky, who scored on consecutive possessions to trim the deficit. O'Brien free throws restored the 12-point difference and it stood at 68-58 through three quarters. Morgan and Bost traded triples to start the fourth quarter. A Brodziansky slam and layups by Dimitrijevic and Parra drew the visitors within 71-67 and prompted a Monaco timeout. Monaco rose to the challenge through Gray and Knight to restore a double-digit lead with 6 minutes remaining. Bost added another three and Tomic fouled out – after being called for a technical foul. Gray raised the difference to 84-70 and Joventut never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.
After trailing by as many as 12, Joventut battled back to within 4 early in the fourth quarter. However, after a timeout, Rob Gray scored a layup and Marcos Knight added a pair of quick baskets to restore a double-digit lead and the visitors never threatened again.
Joventut enjoyed the superior shooting night, but Monaco more than made up for that with defense and rebounding. The hosts turned their opponents 16 turnovers into 23 points and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, which became 14 second-chance points. Joventut had only 1 second-chance point from 5 offensive boards.
New Monaco marks
Monaco logged some new entries into the club record book. Its point total of 97 was the most ever for the club, eclipsing its 96 from earlier this season against Telenet Giants Antwerp. It also set a club record with 23 assists, which was 1 more than its previous best against Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in November 2018. Dee Bost set the club mark for assists with 11, bettering his 9 against Antwerp in October. His career-high PIR of 32 also tied a Monaco record that Mathias Lessort set two weeks earlier.
The two teams will have to wait a month to resume their pursuit of a quarterfinals berth. In Round 5 of the Top 16 on Tuesday, March 2, Monaco will host Nanterre 92, while Joventut takes on Unicaja Malaga.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021