On-the-rise LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne enters Round 26 on a five-game winning streak and first-year forward William Howard has been one of its big contributors and difference-makers during the winning run that has lifted ASVEL into the playoff contention as the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague enters a final stretch of the regular season.
Howard had injury issues in the early part of the season. He appeared in only 10 games over the first 18 rounds and also missed rounds 19 and 20. He returned for a rescheduled Round 10 home-tilt against Olympiacos Piraeus and that's when his hot-streak started.
Howard scored 16 points in just over 16 minutes on the floor, making 3 of 6 two-pointers and 3 of 4 threes. ASVEL lost that game in overtime 93-101, but two days later started its current winning streak and Howard was in the middle of it all.
In a 90-77 victory over Valencia Basket in Round 21, Howard needed less than 16 minutes on the floor to bag 17 points, including making all 9 of his free throws, for a season-best PIR of 24. ASVEL has not suffered a defeat since then and Howard has scored in double figures twice more; he did so in home wins over TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz in Round 22 and last week over FC Bayern Munich.
Over this six-game stretch since his return from injury, Howard has been averaging 11.5 points, compared to just 6.9 before Round 20. He has scored more total points (69) in the last six games than what he scored in the season's first 10 (61). He improved his rebounding, from 2.0 per game to 3.7 per contest over the last six games, including 5.0 over the last four appearances.
That has all led to Howard's PIR nearly doubling, from 7.0 before his latest two-game absence, to 13.8 in the last six games since then.
Interestingly, Howard has attempted the same number of field goals in the last six games (37) as he did in his first 10 appearances and, while his two-point accuracy has dropped, he has been deadly from long range, sinking 61.1% of his three-point attempts.
Such shooting has lifted Howard all the way to second place in three-point accuracy this season. Howard has made 57.5% of his three-point shots this season, behind only Kyle Kuric of Barcelona (57.8%).
Howard's elevated level of play has been a big part of ASVEL's surge up the standings in recent weeks and the 27-year-old forward will try to keep it going this week when ASVEL travels to face the first-place Barcelona.