Howard's heroics lift ASVEL in Monaco
The first EuroLeague game this century between French League teams could not have been more dramatic, with the lead changing hands 22 times before visiting LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne edged AS Monaco 84-85 on a buzzer-beating half-court shot by William Howard. ASVEL improved to 7-5, snapping a three-game losing streak, while Monaco fell to 5-7 with its third loss in a row. A 0-8 run to open the game and another of 2-11 late in the second quarter gave ASVEL a 40-48 halftime advantage, although the lead had changed 15 times in the interim. Monaco inched its way back to go ahead by a high of 4 points, 75-71, late in the game, setting up the dramatic finish. Howard led the winners with a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds. Charles Kahudi followed with 15 points, James Gist with 13, Elie Okobo with 11 and Chris Jones with 10. Monaco was led by Lee Paris, who came off the bench for 20 points. Mike James added 18, Alpha Diallo 15 and Donta Hall 12.
Kahudi opened the scoring and Jones converted a three-point play for a quick 0-5 ASVEL advantage. Howard kept it going with a triple at 0-8 before Dwayne Bacon got Monaco on the scoreboard. Will Thomas and Jones exchanged short jumpers before Okobo joined the fun from downtown at 4-13. Lee came off Monaco's bench for a lane jumper but Gist matched it with a tip-in as ASVEL stayed up 6-15. Lee buried Monaco's first triple out of a timeout, while Hall put back a monster offensive rebound and finished a break to make it 13-15. Alpha Diallo completed Monaco's turnaround with a three-point play for a 16-15 lead that Howard quickly flipped with a layup. Diallo and Okobo traded triples before James downed free throws and Yousoupha Fall beat the buzzer with a deep-two bank shot for ASVEL to lead 21-22 after 10 minutes.
Hall and Fall flipped the scoreboard again with dueling dunks early in the second quarter before Brock Motum's three-point play gave Monaco a 26-24 lead. The back-and-forth continued with a triple by Kahudi and 3 points the hard way by Diallo at 29-27. Kostas Antetokounmpo arrived with a block, a three-point play and a dunk as ASVEL inched ahead, with Gist stealing and slamming to make it 32-35. Bacon and Howard exchanged shots from the arc before the latter stole and finished at 35-40. Hall and Antetokounmpo dunked at either end before a three-point play by Okobo matched ASVEL's high lead at 37-46. Free throws by James and Yakuba Ouattara around Matthew Strazel's jumper let Monaco trim the difference to 40-48 at halftime.
James scored twice inside the arc to start the second half, but Gist bettered him 5 points to make it at 44-53. Hall detonated another dunk but Okobo matched him with free throws. Kahudi slammed next, for ASVEL at 48-57, but Diallo and Lee, from downtown, quickly cut the difference to 53-57. Kahudi scored inside to calm the visitors, but James got to the line and Thomas hit alone from deep as Monaco closed within 58-59. Outtara stole and tied it up with a free throw. Gist dunked for ASVEL but James answered and put his team ahead with a free throw before Howard hit his own to forge a 62-62 tie after 30 minutes.
Donatas Motiejunas dropped a hook shot for Monaco to start the fourth quarter. Jones hit from inside the arc and Kahudi behind it as ASVEL surged ahead 64-68. James was good for a jumper in response, so when Howard snagged an offensive rebound and buried a triple, the visitors were ahead 66-71. Hall hit free throws and Lee drove strong to get Monaco within 70-71 with 5:24 to play, forcing an ASVEL timeout. Lee buried a go-ahead triple and Diallo stole and finished to suddenly make it 75-71 after a 9-0 run. Howard took responsibility for ASVEL with a turnaround jumper and a triple for the game's 18th lead change, 75-76. A broken play ended with Lee hitting a transition triple that Gist followed with a lane jumper at 78-78 with under 2 minutes left. James converted a three-point play with a rainbow shot in the lane for an 81-78 Monaco lead with 1:28 to play, but Kahudi and Jones, the latter with steal, putting ASVEL up 81-82 going into the final minute. Lee forced a turnover from Jones with 23.6 seconds left. After a timeout, James drove and missed but Thomas was there to put it back for an 83-82 Monaco lead with 17.8 seconds left. Lee added a free throw with 2.9 seconds left, after which Howard inbounded for ASVEL from the sideline near half court. His pass was blocked by Lee but Howard picked up the loose ball and heaved it from half-court just ahead of the clock turning to zeros. When it landed, ASVEL was the winner.
Howard saved ASVEL before last shot
On a night when star guards Elie Okobo and Chris Jones were mortal, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne forward William Howard showed how spectacular he can be when inspired. With career highs of 37 minutes, 23 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals, Howard was everywhere for the visitors, whose ranks were depleted by injury and sickness. Despite leading for much of the second half, ASVEL was down 75-71 midway through the fourth quarter when Howard answered with 5 points to put his team back in front. Still, ASVEL would trail by 3 points with 90 seconds left and by 2 points with 3 seconds left, before Howard decided the game on a remarkable play that left him with another career high, 33 PIR, and a victory to remember.
Even among game-winners, Howard's shot was rare
It is not uncommon, with as little as 2.9 seconds left, for coaches to draw up inbounds plays where the original passer gets the ball back and shoots. That's why the defending teams always emphasize not leaving the passer, lest he get a pass right back and an open shot.
What made William Howard's game-winner for ASVEL on Friday so rare is that he was the passer out of bounds, but no one else on his team touched the ball again. The other star of the game, AS Monaco guard Paris Lee, deflected Howard's pass and they scrambled across halfcourt for the ball. When Howard came up with it, he took one dribble forward and launched, as it turns out, a hair's breadth before the clock flashed zeros.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Lee would have been Monaco's hero
Each team had a hero candidate in this game; it just depended on which of them won, and as luck would have it, they were together on the last play. Monaco's inspiration was guard Paris Lee, who came off the bench to score a team-high 20 points and match Howard with 5 triples made and 3 steals. Lee had 5 points in Monaco's go-ahead 9-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter and seemed to have them ready to win. He will regret missing 1 of his 2 free throws with 2.9 seconds left, however, because even if Howard came through anyway, it would have only tied the game. And if ever two teams deserved the go to overtime, after 22 prior lead changes, it was ASVEL and Monaco on Friday.
Did you know?
Monaco and ASVEL certainly know each other well from playing in the French League together for years, but Friday's was their first meeting on the European stage since 1975. No two French teams had played each other in the EuroLeague this century. Far back in the last one, however, Monaco and ASVEL met in the Korac Cup quarterfinals in a home-and-away series. The first game in Monaco was similarly dramatic with the same winner, ASVEL, prevailing 96-97. The second game in Villeurbanne, however, was a blowout for the hosts, 106-76.
Friday, November 26, 2021