Roca Team assert themselves as France’s finest

AS Monaco Basketball serenely breezed to victory against Lyon-Villeurbanne (87-75) in the Euroleague on Friday, their fourth against their French arch-rivals this season. 

Four games, four victories; It’s a record that reflects the Roca Team’s rise. Last season, Asvel clinched the Betclic Elite title against Monaco in a thrilling five-legged final. This season, Les Monégasques have been unchallenged and unimpeded on their way to recording a perfect record against their French rivals, in the domestic division, and also in the Euroleague. 

Not all of Monaco’s key performers turned up, but they didn’t have to. Elie Okobo (7 points), Mike James (10 points) and Jordan Loyd (19 points) have all become indispensable to this team. The former, against his old team, had a mixed performance sloppily conceding possession on numerous occasions, and lacking his usual clinicism; the same can be said of James. Both, however, grew into the game in the final minutes, in time to inflict the fatal final blows. 

It was Loyd who got the scoreboard ticking for Monaco as the home side made the break early on. Ample space was afforded by Asvel, who couldn’t stop bleeding points within the key. Their passive start would haunt them. John Brown III’s T3 gave Monaco a 10-point advantage (23-13), from which the visitors failed to recover. 

Monaco’s typical and entirely predictable third-quarter drop-off wasn’t enough for Asvel to return within striking distance. Heading into the final 10 minutes with a four-point advantage, defences asserted their control for the first time in the match. An intensity seeped into Asvel’s game, but their attempts were ultimately futile, Monaco inflicting their fourth defeat on their French rivals (87-75), and keeping within two wins of the Euroleague summit. 

Post-match, manager Sasa Obradovic was critical of the performance but grateful for the result. “The win is the most important thing. Five days of rest is never good for us. Honestly, the game wasn’t at a Euroleague level, but we won. It is important that we learn a lesson, but this is not how we want to play,” he said. 

Responding to Monaco Life, Obradovic also reflected on Asvel’s drip-off this year, which has allowed them to be the undisputed top French league side in European competition. “This is not the real Asvel. In the four games, maybe the second we played the one we wanted to play. Absences on Asvel’s side maybe made them relax, we thought maybe things would be easier,” he said. 

The Roca Team now have a break from European action, with the Euroleague returning on 24th February with a trip to Barcelona.

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Photo by AS Monaco Basket