Tensions and pressure dissipated on Thursday as AS Monaco Basketball ended a poor run of form with a deserved victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv (86-67).
The Roca Team headed into the game off the back of consecutive defeats. Not only that, their most recent defeat, at the hands of Barcelona in the Euroleague, brought tensions to the surface, with Mike James and Sasa Obradovic coming to blows.
A win against their Israeli opponents at the Salle Gaston Médecin was a must, not just for morale, but also to reassert their playoff credentials. Monaco started the game well enough, registering 30 points in the opening quarter to create a healthy 13-point buffer.
Chima Moneke becoming a fan favourite
However, that lead was wiped out with the Roca Team failing to score in the opening five minutes of the second quarter. Nerves began to jangle, and that early-game optimism had dissipated, giving way to stunned silence amongst the Roca Team fans.
Monaco and Maccabi began matching each other blow-for-blow, and it required a late show of force to get the job done in front of the home support. Chima Moneke (nine points), who was signed to replace the outgoing Adrien Moerman in January, has quickly established himself as a fan favourite and injected some much-needed energy in the dying stages, which was ultimately decisive.
Jordan Loyd (18 points) continued his good form, whilst Elie Okobo (11 points) helped to ease pressure in key moments. James (12 points, six assists) is slowly re-discovering his best form, but is doing so without the burden of having to carry the team on his shoulders.
Monaco ruthlessly dispatched Maccabi in the final quarter (28-8) to bounce back (86-67) from a recent poor run of form, which had threatened to derail the team’s push for the playoffs.
“It was a great victory,” began Sasa Obradovic. “It is great to have this kind of success, in particular with the way that we played. It is a victory that gives us confidence going forward. Moneke’s contribution was crucial. From the moment he came on, everything went our way,” he continued.
Monaco next face Nanterre in the Betclic Elite on Sunday before returning to Euroleague action against Panathinaikos on Wednesday.
Photo by AS Monaco Basket