Monaco beats Maccabi to finish 2021 on a high note
AS Monaco finished a banner year in club history by holding off Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv 82-76 on Wednesday night at Salle Gaston Medecin. 2021 saw Monaco win the 7DAYS EuroCup and then make its Turkish Airlines EuroLeague debut. It will head into 2022 with a 7-11 record after outscoring Maccabi in each of the final three quarters to snap a two-game slide. Donatas Motiejunas and Alpha Diallo scored 16 points apiece to lead the winners. Mike James tallied 12 points and 13 assists, Dwayne Bacon added 11 points and Leo Westermann, in his first game back in over a month, netted 10 points. Scottie Wilbekin scored 31 points and Ante Zizic added 10 points and 7 rebounds for Maccabi, which lost its eighth straight game and fell to 7-11.
The game was physical early with a few fouls in the opening minutes. It took 100 seconds until Derrick Williams opened the scoring with a layup-plus-foul. Paris Lee opened the Monaco account with a three-pointer. Maccabi’s guards Wilbekin and Keenan Evans helped the visitors regain the lead. Westermann and Donta Hall came off the bench midway through the opening quarter and helped Monaco to its first lead, 9-8, on a layup by James. Zizic dunked twice in a 0-6 Maccabi run that prompted a Monaco timeout. Diallo dunked at the other end and Hall’s tip-in at the first-quarter buzzer made it 13-15.
Bacon scored in transition to even things before Angelo Caloiaro pulled up for a triple at the other end. Will Thomas and Wilbekin traded threes as the visitors maintained a slim lead. Williams put Maccabi up 20-25 with a steal and windmill slam midway through the second quarter. Motiejunas battled to keep the hosts close and a Westermann triple made it 27-28. Williams showed off with another wild slam only for Westermann to tie it with his second three, 30-30. Motiejunas’s layup gave Monaco the lead and, after Wilbekin and James both made threes, the home team went into the locker room with a 35-33 halftime advantage.
A three by Evans to start the second half put Maccabi ahead. The lead switched hands on three straight possessions with a three by Motiejunas giving Monaco a 40-38 edge. Bacon went coast to coast for a tough layup and a 4-point lead and a triple by Lee made it 49-44 midway through the third quarter. The margin reached 6 before Evan knocked down a three for Maccabi. But the visitors did not score over the next 3 and a half minutes and Bacon gave Monaco a 7-point lead. Jalen Reynolds dunked just before the third-quarter buzzer to make it 56-51.
Diallo scored the first two baskets of the fourth quarter as the lead swelled to 9. Maccabi called timeout and Wilbekin stopped the bleeding, but Diallo scored again for Monaco. After Wilbekin assisted on Reynolds’s free throws and then buried a three, Monaco called timeout at 62-58. James rose to the occasion with a tough three and a layup to keep Maccabi at bay. Free throws by Wilbekin on consecutive possessions made it 67-66 with less than 4 minutes remaining. Zizic missed a chance to put the visitors ahead and Bacon capitalized with a three-point play at the other end. A three by Diallo had the Monaco fans on their feet at 73-66. Wilbekin drilled a three and made 2 free throws to get within 76-72 with 56.6 seconds on the clock. Bacon the split free throws, but Wilbekin missed his next shot and Westermann iced the game from the line.
James leads the way with assists
AS Monaco’s Round 18 victory over Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv was the team’s fourth game under Coach Sasa Obradovic and it appears he has turned one of the league’s premier scorers into one of its best assist men. Mike James won the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy in 2019 and has been in the running a few other times, but he has shined as a playmaker more recently. After going for 12 points and 13 assists against Maccabi, James is averaging 16.3 points and 11.0 assists with Obradovic on the bench. That comes after he averaged 4.6 assists in the first 14 games of the season. This marked the ninth double-double of James’s career and his teams are 7-2 in those games.
By the numbers: Monaco shoots much better
The key for AS Monaco in Wednesday’s victory over Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv was better shooting. The hosts made 63.6% of their two-pointer (21 of 33) and 40.9% of their threes (9 of 22). Both numbers were significantly better than the visitors, who connected on 52.8% of their twos (19 of 36) and 30.8% of threes (8 of 26). The better shooting masked the fact that Maccabi won the rebounding battle 29-33 – including 4-11 on the offensive glass – and committed fewer turnovers (14-11).
Wilbekin lights up Monaco again
Maccabi’s star guard Scottie Wilbekin has played 158 games in his EuroLeague career and he has scored 30 points in only two of them. Both of them came this season against AS Monaco. After setting a career-high and tying a club record with 37 points in a home win over Monaco in Round 10, Wilbekin carried the Maccabi attack this time on the road, albeit in defeat. He scored 31 points by making 5 of 10 two-point shots and 5 of 9 threes as well as all 6 of his free throws. Wilbekin added 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in compiling a PIR of 31, which was the fourth-best of his career.
Wednesday, December 29, 2021