Monaco stops Buducnost to force Game 3
AS Monaco kept its dream of 7DAYS EuroCup glory alive on Friday by pulling off a 64-74 win over Buducnost VOLI Podgorica in Game 2 of their playoff quarterfinal at Arena Stozice in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Tied 1-1 now, the series now moves back to the principality, where Buducnost had stolen Game 1, for a decisive third and final game on Wednesday. Monaco led early and often, stretching the difference into double digits after halftime, when its defense proved too much for Buducnost. Rob Gray led the winners with 20 points, while Mathias Lessord had 19 and 8 rebounds while Marcos Knight scored 24 Buducnost got 17 points from Justin Cobbs, 16 from Nikola Ivanovic and 12 from Willie Reed but suffered more from its 3 for-13 three-point shooting than Monaco did for making just 3 of 16.
Reed dunked off the opening tip among 6 quick points but Lessort, Bost and Knight shot Monaco ahead 6-12. Suad Sehovic and Amadeo Della Valle became Buducnost's second and third scorers with free throws, while Rob Gray and Abdoulaye N'Doye joined Monaco's list to make it 11-16. Nikola Ivanovic fired up the game's first three-pointer for the hosts and Zoran Nikolic hit 2 free throws for a 16-16 tie. Gray's second-chance triple held up for an 18-21 Monaco edge after 10 minutes. In a slow-scoring start to the second quarter, Cobbs took over with 6 points to put Buducnost back in front 24-23. Lessort scored 2 baskets to flip the scoreboard and soon fed Knight for a second-chance three-point play at 26-31. Cobbs came up big with a three-pointer on which Danilo Nikolic was fouled for a five-point Buducnost possession to tie 31-31. Gray broke the tie with 2 jumpers and yet another second-chance basket by Knight left Monaco in charge, 31-37, at the half.
Knight hit the second half's first bucket before Melvin Ejim and Ivanovic scored for Buducnost, but Gray and Lessort, twice, answered for the game's first double-digit lead, 35-45. Zoran Nikolic hit free throws, Ivanovic dropped a runner and Cobbs converted a three-point play to revive Buducnost at 42-45. J.J. O'Brien's triple and Knight's baseline take calmed Monaco before Damien Inglis converted a three-point play to lift the lead again to 46-53. Ivanovic hit a layup off one steal and free throws off another on either side of a triple by Bost to leave a 51-56 score after 30 minutes. Gray calmly downed a jumper and fed Lessort for a dunk to start the fourth quarter by forcing a Buducnost timeout at 51-60 as the hosts missed one inside shot after another. Gray kept it going with 2 more shots, pushing the difference to 51-63. The scoring stalled until Reed's dunk was answered by N'Doye's fastbreak at 55-66 with under 5 minutes left. Almost 2 minutes later, Lessort's pair of layups erased all doubt that the series was going back to Monaco to be decided.
Two-year dream still alive
With Friday's victory, Monaco has retained the opportunity to make good on a dream that the club and some of its players have been working on for two years. Last season, Monaco made its historic first qualification to the quarterfinals, but those games were never played due to the global pandemic. Current players Dee Bost, J.J. O'Brien and Wilfired Yeguete were all part of last season's effort, and now they'll have the chance to see it to fruition on their home court.
Three days after Buducnost big man dominated Game 1, Monaco center Mathias Lessort was his team's steadies influence on both ends in Game 2. He finished with 19 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block for a PIR of 22, including 5 points in a row late in the game that made sure for the visitors.
Buducnost veteran Suad Sehovic took over sole possession of 15th place all-time on the EuroCup list for three-pointers when he hit his 139th career shot from the arc in the game's final minute. He had been tied with Tre Simmons before that shot.
The Principality of Monaco will be the scene of do-or-die Game 3 in this series on Wednesday, March 31 at 18:00 CET. The winner will become a first-time semifinalist and play against either Herbalife Gran Canaria or Boulougne Metropolitans 92, once their quarterfinal series has ended.
Friday, March 26, 2021