LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne needed a win against Turk Telekom Ankara to advance to the Top 16, regardless of other scores, in Round 8. With two of its main frontcourt players, Livio Jean-Charles and Alpha Kaba, still sidelined, ASVEL faced more injury trouble as Charles Kahudi, the team's leading scorer (13.8 ppg.) was not available for this game, either.
Turk Telekom took advantage of the ASVEL absences early in the game to lead 27-16 early in the second quarter. ASVEL proved, however, that despite its depleted lineup, is a reliable team full of experienced players eager to give their best.
Miro Bilan had 21 of his 23 points in the last three quarters. He made 10 of 12 two-point shots and set new career-highs in points and performance index rating (33). Not only was it one of the best performances in Bilan's career, but he made the difference on defense down the stretch. With ASVEL up by 3 and in big need of a defensive stop, Bilan provided not one, but two of them. He had a big block on Reggie Redding, whose shot he sent out of bounds and then intercepted the inbounds pass and found Amine Noua for an easy basket that sealed the outcome.
At age 32 and his 14th season as a professional basketball player, Mantas Kalnietis is showing his best. He finished the game with 11 points, a EuroCup career-high 8 rebounds and 9 assists as he flirted with the competition's first triple-double in almost three years - Quino Colom of UNICS Kazan had the last one (15 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists) in December 2015. Kalnietis is also shooting the ball better than ever, averaging 50% from downtown (18 of 36) until now.
Most important, ASVEL is in the Top 16 for the second consecutive season and showing great stability with a lot of room for improvement. It is definitely intriguing to see how dangerous ASVEL can be when everybody is back.