At the Astroballe,
Even Tony Parker, from the height of his 18 NBA seasons, assures us that he has “rarely seen a game like this, with so much intensity”. Certainly extremely euphoric because of his fourth title of champion of France obtained as president of Asvel, the third in row, “TP” does not necessarily exaggerate that much. In view of the generally disappointing first four games of this Asvel-Monaco series, with only one tight encounter (83-80 for the Roca Team in game 3), we did not necessarily imagine the two favorites of Betclic Elite capable of giving us a such a high-level show on Saturday (84-82 after extra time).
In an Astroballe quickly melting on Saturday, the Villeurbannais also left on the basis of the memorable beating (+ 37) of the second match (22-7, 7th). Impossible not to fear then a one-way match 5. But the Roca Team would not have climbed to the gates of the Euroleague Final Four (2-3 against Olympiakos) without undeniable warrior virtues. A heatstroke from Mike James on returning from the locker room even made us feel Asvel on the brink (60-68, 36th).
“We then had the game in hand”
It was from there that the scenario became daunting, with two teams returning blow for blow, even after a season with more than 80 official games played. “We then had the game in hand, confirms Monegasque full-back Léo Westermann. +8 with two more faults to give, it was blessed bread. Then it swung to the side of Asvel. “Sacred in Betclic Elite from his first two play-offs as head coach, TJ Parker then summarizes the state of mind of his group:” We had to stay strong mentally. We never gave up, and that’s kind of the story of this team. We can’t do better than a match like that for our sport. »
“It was tense, adds William Howard. You say to yourself “damn, we were at +17 at the start of the match”. But you don’t let go. There’s no point in arriving at this time of the season to let go, so you fight… ”Already trailing 0-1 and 1-2 in this series, Asvel once again managed to raise their heads thanks to David Lighty and William Howard, until a final anthology streak by Finals MVP Elie Okobo (20 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds), at 73-75, with less than 8 seconds to play and all the terrain to cross.
“It’s the instinct that decides instead of the head”
“I picked up speed and I saw that Mike James turned his head to the right, so I accelerated, says the international tricolor. I absolutely had to score. What he does brilliantly to equalize (75-75), with the fault of Mike James as a bonus. It was then difficult to see Elie Okobo (86.4% success in the exercise on these play-offs) missing the winning throw. And yet… “I don’t know what happened to me. Usually, I don’t miss free throws. It gives a little suspense, I think the fans on TV liked it, ”smiles the former Phoenix Suns player.
And what about the 5,550 spectators of the Astroballe, not so unhappy to be entitled to 5 minutes of extension. The moment chosen by William Howard, described as “incredible” by his coach on Saturday evening, to become a hero on both sides of the field. Little introspection of the versatile 28-year-old winger to try to understand how he transcended himself.
It’s the kind of games you dream of playing when you’re little. I like the pressure. It was crazy, there were 10,000 things going on in my head at that moment. But in the end, I didn’t think about it. In these moments, it is the instinct that decides instead of the head. When Elie puts the “and one” 2 seconds from the end, I said to myself “Damn that’s it, we’re delivered”. And in the end, he misses the throw and we leave for 5 minutes. »
William Howard’s maboule cons on Paris Lee
An extension in the form of a final bouquet delivered by the native of the Loire, author of the distant arrow tipping the Villeurbannais in the lead, 53 seconds from the end (from 80-81 to 83-81). Then William Howard sublimated himself on the other side of the field, when it was necessary to lock the circle against the last two assaults from Paris Lee and Dwayne Bacon.
“When Chris Jones loses the ball [à 83-82 et 19 secondes à jouer], I tell myself that there is nothing else to do but run. I don’t know what Paris Lee did, I think he slowed down before making his lay-up. He took it badly, because like the Slovenian Klemen Prepelic taped by Nicolas Batum, in the money time of the half of the Tokyo Olympics, the American rear was picked up at high altitude by a William Howard who came back from nowhere.
“It was a good showcase for the French championship”
“I didn’t know if Paris Lee could dunk so I felt that William was going to put this counter, relishes Elie Okobo. He had a lot of confidence and he brought us energy and big shots. “Plus a final iron defense therefore, with the complicity of Marcos Knight, to stop the plans of Dwayne Bacon and the Roca Team, unable to take a shot under the pressure of the men of TJ Parker (84-82).
Author of the first Three peat in the French championship since CSP Limoges between 1988 and 1990, Asvel is the most comfortable when things go crazy in an overheated enclosure. The final word is for Léo Westermann, as fair play as William Howard was clutch: “It’s for this type of match that we love basketball so much, even if it hurts us of course tonight . It was a good showcase for the French championship. Without doubt even the best in ages.