ASVEL edges UNICS to move into tie for second
LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne held off UNICS Kazan 85-82 on Thursday night at Astroballe for the French champs' third win in a row. Chris Jones was the catalyst with a career-high 25 points to lift ASVEL's record to 6-2 and a share of second place in the standings. David Lighty added 19 points and Elie Okobo had 17 for the winners who led by as many as 12 but had to hold off a late Mario Hezonja-led rally. Hezonja finished with a career-high 27 points for UNICS. Lorenzo Brown tallied 12 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals, Tonye Jekiri also scored 12 and Isaiah Canaan had 10 in defeat. The loss dropped to 3-5 on the season.
ASVEL scored on each of its first four possessions – with baskets coming from dour different players – to lead 8-0 before Dmitrii Uzinskii got UNCIS on the scoreboard with a triple. John Brown took a steal in for a slam and then sank a pair of free throws to bring the visitors within 1. Okobo's layup gave all five ASVEL starts baskets in the first 4 minutes. Jones scored twice to extend the hosts' lead to 14-7 midway through the opening quarter. John Brown converted a three-point play – which was also the second foul committed by Okobo, who took an early seat. Jekiri scored twice to even the score before Marco Spissu's triple gave UNCIS its first lead, 16-17. Lorenzo Brown's steal and layup prompted an ASVEL timeout. Matthew Strazel made a circus shot for the hosts, but Canaan's layup to end the first quarter gave UNICS a 21-24 lead.
Jekiri scored from an alley-oop pass from OJ Mayo and the latter netted a mid-range jumper to keep UNICS ahead. Jones reached double-figures in scoring with a long jumper, but Hezonja's first basket made it 25-30 midway through the second quarter. James Gist threw down a monster slam and Jones converted a three-point play to even things at 32-32. Lighty followed with a jumper-plus-foul and Okobo went coast to coast to complete a 10-0 run as the hosts regained the lead. After a UNICS timeout, Uzinskii scored in the paint. Lighty kept ASVEL rolling, but Okobo was soon back on the bench with his third foul. A layup by Hezonja made it 39-36 at halftime.
Lighty and Charles Kahudi knocked down threes in the first 2 minutes of the second half – the first 2 triples of the game for ASVEL – to stretch the lead to 47-40. Hezonja answered with a three-pointer, an assist to Jekiri and a baseline jumper as UNICS closed the gap to 49-47. Back-to-back threes by Jones and Okobo – the latter with a bonus free throw, got the fans singing. Okobo was soon back at the foul line where he extended the margin to double figures. John Brown continued to make an impact for UNICS with a put-back, however, the visitors had no answer for Lighty, whose fadeaway jumper extended the margin to 12. A fastbreak layup by Hezonja and free throws by Spissu put 65-57 on the scoreboard after three quarters.
Jones stole the ball and led Kostas Antetokounmpo for a slam as the hosts cemented the lead. Hezonja countered with a layup-plus-foul, but an alley-oop dunk by Antetokounmpo kept the margin in double figures. ASVEL committed turnovers on three straight possessions and Hezonja and Lorenzo Brown capitalized to get within 70-64. A put-back slam by Jekiri brought a hush to the arena at 71-68. Jones gave ASVEL some breathing room with free throws. After Lorenzo Brown countered, Jones and Okobo scored on successive possessions as the lead swelled to 77-70. After a UNICS timeout, Canaan buried a three. Hezonja kept the pressure on and his jumper in the lane made it 81-79 in the final minute. Lighty extended the margin to two possessions with free throws and UNICS missed three times from deep on the next possession. Jones put the game on ice with 2 free throws with 14.3 seconds to go.
Pivotal performer: Jones shines for ASVEL
Chris Jones set a career-high with 25 points in leading LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne past UNICS Kazan. He scored 15 in the first half, slowed down with 3 points and 2 assists in the third quarter before shining with 7 points in the fourth to secure the win. Jones made 8 of 10 two-point shots, 1 of 4 threes and 6 of 7 free throws. He also collected 3 rebounds, dished 3 assists, grabbed 1 steal and committed 3 turnovers in racking up a performance index rating of 27. He edged his previous best in scoring, which was 24 against ALBA Berlin in Round 2 this season. Jones had a PIR of 21 last season for Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv against Zalgiris Kaunas.
Slew of personal bests for Hezonja
Mario Hezonja was on fire for UNICS Kazan in the second half against LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne and finished the contest with a slew of career-highs. The swingman, who is playing his fifth EuroLeague campaign, made 10 two-pointers, scored 27 points and posted a performance index rating of 29, which were all better by far than his previous highs. In fact, he shattered his previous bests in all the categories in the second half alone, when he went for 23 points on 8-of-10 two-point shooting for a PIR of 28. Henzonja’s best scoring night before this game was a 22-point effort for FC Barcelona against Real Madrid in February 2015. He had twice reached PIRs of 21 in the past: once for UNICS in Round 3 against FC Bayern Munich and once for Panathinaikos OPAP Athens against Barca in March of last season. He never even came close to 10 two-pointers before, with his best previously sitting at just 4. In fact, the 10 two-pointers made are 1 less than the UNICS record set by D’Or Fischer against Real Madrid in November 2014.
Gist keeps climbing the all-time charts
Throughout his career, James Gist has been a blue-collar worker who does his best work away from the spotlight, but his coaches and teammates always appreciate what he does for the team. Against UNICS Kazan on Thursday, Gist played the third-most minutes on the team (27:08), which is a testament to how important his role is. In that time, he posted 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block and continued to cement his legacy in the competition. With the 3 rebounds, Gist leapfrogged Anadolu Efes center Bryant Dunston for 11th place on the all-time EuroLeague charts with 1,161 career boards. Tenth place belongs to FC Bayern Munich center Othello Hunter, who has 1,172 rebounds – and counting. Gist also moved into a tie for 12th place on the all-time blocked shots list with 155. He needs 6 more to reach Victor Khryapa for 11th place and then 1 more to catch Mirza Begic in 10th.
Saturday, December 4, 2021