Basketball: Monaco one win away from Betclic Elite final, but performance prompts post-match Sasa Obradovic rant

Mike James v Bourg-en-Bresse

The Betclic Elite final is within touching distance for AS Monaco Basketball as they doubled their advantage (2-0) in the five-game series against Bourg-en-Bresse thanks to a narrow and unconvincing victory (105-99) on Wednesday night.

The gap in quality wasn’t as evident as it was during Monday night’s victory (96-79) against the same opponent. Bourg-en-Bresse knew they were fighting for their place in the competition, and that desperation for a result showed.

Neither side managed to stem the flow of points in the first quarter, but Bourg-en-Bresse could rely on the impressive precision of James Palmer (21 points) outside the key (3/3 in Q1), whilst in both phases of play, it was Bourg who were first to the ball (8 rebounds to Monaco’s 3).

Mike James (19 points) was working his magic, but it wasn’t enough to allow the Roca Team to make up their first-quarter deficit before the half-time buzzer (49-55).

Bourg blown away on the return from the dressing room

Monaco, however, have the individual quality to turn a game in minutes, and that’s what happened early in the third quarter. Carried by Élie Okobo (20 points) and Alpha Diallo (16 points), the Roca Team made the break, scoring 21 points in the first five minutes of the second half.

Bourg-en-Bresse were wounded, but not defeated, and Monaco couldn’t stop them from crawling back into the game. Okobo looked to have killed the game off with a swift counter deep in the fourth quarter, but a six-point unreplied streak gave Bourg hope of an unlikely win (97-95).

Photo by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life

However, Monaco’s quality and experience showed in money time. Diallo gave Monaco breathing space before John Brown III (11 points) killed the game with an emphatic dunk, which lifted everyone in the Salle Gaston Médecin to their feet.

This wasn’t a classic Monaco performance, but the result is a crucial one, and one which puts Sasa Obradovic’s side within one win of back-to-back Betclic Elite finals, not that that was of great consolation to the Serbian coach, who was furious with his team.

A wake-up call for Monaco

“The most important thing is to be 2-0 up. We knew it wouldn’t be the same, the aggression, their ball rotations. I said [the performance] was unacceptable, I said it multiple times, because maybe our focus was somewhere else. It hurts me,” said Obradovic.

He added, “With big respect to this Bourg team, if you don’t come with the physicality and mental focus, you give them a chance, and we gave them a chance. You can’t concede almost 100 points to this team, you cannot. I want to play defence to win the title. Maybe we needed this kind of game as an alarm, a warning, and it’s an unbelievable warning. If you play like this, you won’t win, it’s very simple.”

Bourg will be fighting for their lives in the third game of the series on Saturday, and Obradovic will be hoping for the result, and the performance to match, to get the job done.



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Photo by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life