Monaco holds off Gran Canaria in semis opener
AS Monaco survived several second-half comebacks from Herbalife Gran Canaria to prevail 82-77 at Stade Louis II in the opening game of their best-of-three EuroCup Semifinals series. The hosts dominated the second quarter 24-5 to grab a commanding 44-26 halftime lead. Gran Canaria came right back with a 1-15 start to the second half and continued fighting until the bitter end but could not complete the comeback. Rob Gray shined with 25 points on 5-of-6 three-point shooting to pace the winners. Mathias Lessort added 12 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks – the latter number marking a career-high, a club record and tying the EuroCup record for a semifinals game. J.J. O'Brien and Dee Bost added 11 points each for the winners.
Matt Costello paced Gran Canaria with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks, Tomas Dimsa scored 14 and A.J. Slaughter 13 in defeat.
Both teams came out cold with each scoring just once in the first 3 minutes. Monaco went to Lessort early and he drew 2 fouls from Gran Canaria starter Oliver Stevic – including a three-point play – and another foul from Aleskander Balcerowski in the opening few minutes. However, free throws by Stevic and Balcerowski gave the visitors a 3-6 start. Monaco grabbed the lead when a transition triple by Bost made it 10-8. Slaughter and Bost traded shots as the scoreboard evened out at 13-13. After Dimsa and Rob Gray traded threes and the lead, Andrew Albicy beat the first-quarter buzzer for a 20-21 Gran Canaria lead after 10 minutes. Gray remained hot with 5 points in a 7-0 Monaco run to the second quarter. An O'Brien three made it 32-23 and prompted a Gran Canaria timeout. Costello made his presence felt for the visitors with a blocked shot and a slam. A put-back slam by Lessort gave Monaco its first double-digit lead, 36-26, with 3 minutes remaining. O'Brien connected again from deep and Damien Inglis scored twice to cap a 10-0 charge that brought his team into halftime ahead 44-26.
Gran Canaria got the start it needed for the second half as Balcerowski blocked a shot and Dimsa made a layup. Balcerowski and Dimsa each dunked as the visitors held Monaco scoreless for the first 5 minutes of the second half. Dimsa remained hot with free throws before Costello scored twice and added a free throw to complete a 1-14 charge that made it 45-41. A three by Ndoye was Monaco's first basket of the quarter after more than 7 minutes of play. A second effort by Lessort helped Monaco settle down and a put-back by Marcos Knight restored a double-digit margin. A three by Dimsa, which gave him 12 points in the quarter, made it 54-46 through three quarters. John Shurna scored his first points for Gran Canaria to start the fourth quarter. Gray bettered him from downtown and scored again to make it 59-48. A jumper by Knight made it 63-50 with 6 minutes to play. Back-to-back threes by Costello got the visitors back in the game. Knight fouled out for Monaco and Javier Beiran's free throw got Gran Canaria within 65-59. Gray connected on his fourth and fifth triples on consecutive possessions to stake out a 71-61 advantage. Gray was forced to the bench with 5 fouls with less than 2 minutes to go. Threes by Shurna and Slaughter made it 75-71 with 54 seconds left. A key offensive rebound by Lessort to help kill the clock and then a basket-plus-foul by the same player with 28 seconds remaining all but settled the outcome.
Quarterfinals MVP Mathias Lessort came up big in crunch time once again. After top scorer Rob Gray fouled out with 2 minutes to go and Gran Canaria made back-to-back threes to get back in the game, Lessort took the game by the horns with a clutch offensive rebound to help kill the clock and then, after the ball circulated, he made a basket-plus-foul that would prove critical in preserving the lead.
Three-point shooting proved to be decisive in this showdown. With both teams shooting below 40% on twos, Monaco was able to make up for that by knocking down 9 of 17 threes (52.9%) led by Rob Gray's 5-of-6 shooting from downtown. Gran Canaria made just 7 of 23 threes (30.4%).
Andrew Albicy delivered 3 assists which took him into eighth place on the EuroCup's career charts. He moved past Marko Popovic (331) and now has 332 for his career.
These same teams will meet on Friday, April 9, for Game 2 of this series. A road win for Monaco will send it to the EuroCup Finals. A home win for Gran Canaria will send both teams back to Monaco for Game 3 on Wednesday, April 14.
Tuesday, April 6, 2021