Monaco holds on to sweep UNICS for the trophy!
AS Monaco made history on Friday by topping host UNICS Kazan 83-86 to become the first French League team ever to win the 7DAYS EuroCup title. Monaco also became the second team to sweep a best-of-three final series in the competition by scoring the game's final 5 points after UNICS had taken an 83-81 lead with 15 seconds left. J.J. O'Brien had a three-point play with 10 seconds left and Marcos Knight buried free throws with 4 remaining to seal the victory and the title. Rob Gray led the winners with 25 points while O'Brien added 16, Dee Bost and Knight 14 each. The 1.88-meter Knight also pulled 12 rebounds for the winners. John Brown led UNICS with 16 points, while Jordan Theodore added 15, Isaiah Canaan 11 and Jamar Smith 10. Hail to AS Monaco, the new 7DAYS EuroCup champion!
John Holland stepped back for a corner triple to open the scoring for UNICS and Artem Klimenko made it 5-0 on a layup. Knight scored Monaco's first basket with a put-back and Dee Bost exploded for 5 points to put the visitors in front 7-8. Pavel Antipov flipped the scoreboard with a triple before Lessort tied it, 10-10. Klimenko's third basket was answered by Bost from deep then J.J. O'Brien converted a three-point play to put Monaco up 12-16. Gray arrived with a triple for Monaco at 14-19. UNICS responded as John Brown put back an offensive rebound, Dimitrii Uzinskii hit free throws and Isaiah Canaan came alive for 4 points in a row and a 22-20 lead. Okaro White joined the fun but Gray earned and made 4 free throws to forge another tie before Nate Wolters hit a floater for a 26-24 UNICS lead after 10 minutes. Gray and Canaan traded triples to open the second quarter. O'Brien hit an inside reverse and Gray blasted a corner triple as Monaco jumped in front, 29-32. Wolters and Jordan Theodore took the lead back for UNICS and Brown added to it with a jumper at 36-33. Bost came back and tied it in one shot that White matched for UNICS, but Marcos Knight did the same for Monaco while Lessort and Gray combined on 3 free throws for a new lead change, 39-42. Gray then blasted a triple out of timeout for the game's high lead so far, 39-45. Theodore and Brown led the UNICS response to get within 45-46 in the final minute before Wilfried Yeguete and Theodore traded baskets for a 37-48 halftime score.
Brown hit a reverse and Walters a free throw to put UNICS back in front 50-48 early in the third quarter. Abdoulaye N'doye, Yeguete and Gray quickly took the lead back at 50-54. Brown and Yeguete traded baskets. Canaan got UNICS closer and then Jamar Smith got his first basket on a put-back that tied it 56-56. Lessort fed O'Brien and Knight hit a lane jumper to calm the visitors. Uzinskii came up with a big triple for UNICS but Lessort drove acrobatically to make it 59-62. White and Gray traded free throws before Theodore's basket made it 63-64. Brown put UNICS in front again from the foul line but Gray took the lead right back with a layup before Theodore hit Brown for an alley-up layup and a 67-66 lead after 30 minutes. Bost and O'Brien quickly seized the advantage again for Monaco at 67-70. Theodore got a basket back for UNICS, but Gray answered with his own and Knight lifted to bury a huge three-pointer to make it 69-75 with under 6 minutes left. Canaan hit free throws and Theodore finished Smith's block to get UNICS within 73-75. Lessort's put-back settled Monaco and Knight followed with an elbow jumper at 73-79 with under 4 minutes left. Smith nailed a lane jumper out of a timeout. Back-to-back offensive fouls by Monaco let Smith hit a layup and another jumper to tie it up 79-79 with 1:38 to play. O'Brien scored out of a timeout for Monaco and Theodore answered with a driving layup at 81-81 going into the last minute. Smith struck again for a long two-pointer with 15.5 seconds left for the first UNICS lead in more than 10 minutes. Monaco inbounded to O'Brien who drove, hit a turnaround one-hander and the free throw that came with it with 10.5 seconds left. UNICS got Smith open for a long triple that missed, and Knight was fouled on the rebound, hitting both free throws for the 83-86 final score, sending the EuroCup trophy back to Monaco!
What a game!
The first half was as competitive as you could ask for with 9 lead changes and 7 ties ending in a 47-48 Monaco lead. The second half was almost as back-and-forth, with 8 more lead changes and 4 more ties for a total of 17 lead changes and 11 ties. The last two lead changes came with 15.5 seconds left, when Jamar Smith put UNICS in front 83-81, and 5 seconds later, when J.J. O'Brien's turnaround shot in the lane came with a free throw that he converted to flip the scoreboard one last time. The high lead of the game was 39-45 in the minute before halftime, but for the rest of the night it was nip and tuck all the way. What a game!
Gray takes MVP
AS Monaco guard Rob Gray was named the MVP of the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals after leading all scorers in both games of the series. Gray, who joined Monaco in midseason, had 23 points as Monaco won at home, 87-89, in Game 1. He turned around and did himself a basket better in Game 2, with 25 points, as Monaco upset UNICS in Kazan, 83-86, and picked up the EuroCup trophy to bring back to its tiny principality on the Mediterranean Sea.
Not too many three-pointers fell in Game 2, but Monaco got the best of that category, hitting 9 shots from the arc out of 20 tries for a 45.0% rate. Monaco's defense on the three-point arc was decisive as the visitors held UNICS to 6-for-26 three-point shooting, or 23.1%. That was the second-lowest three-point rate all season for UNICS.
For most of the major inbounds plays in the second half, Monaco got the ball first to J.J. O'Brien while UNICS overplayed the visiting ball-handlers. His sure hands helped Monaco finish the game with just 7 turnovers, the second-lowest total in finals history. But on the key possession with under 15 seconds left, O'Brien took the ball to the pain, hit a turnaround jumper and was fouled to make the free throw, giving Monaco the last lead change and, ultimately, the title.
Both Monaco and UNICS qualified to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague for next season by virtue of reaching the 7DAYS EuroCup Finals. We will see both in the continent's top-flight competition next fall.
Friday, April 30, 2021