It is only natural for a team to see its numbers dip as the season goes on. Not only do opponents have more material to scout you on, but the level of the opponent also gets better. After all, the three opponents any team faces in the 7DAYS EuroCup Top 16 should be tougher than at least the two eliminated teams from its regular season group.
When it comes to AS Monaco, its numbers have been steadily on the rise, which is what led Sasa Obradovic's men to a stunning 25-point rout of UNICS Kazan on Wednesday to not only win Top 16 Group G, but to secure homecourt advantage for its series against a still-to-be-determined quarterfinals opponent – as well as in the semifinals if it advances.
Monaco has scored at least 85 points in each of its last three games. It averaged 9.7 triples per game in that three-game winning streak after making 6.2 threes per game in the regular season. In the regular season, Monaco averaged 76.3 points on 27.9% three-point shooting, which was last in the competition. In the Top 16? 82.3 points on 40.9% three-point shooting, which was best in the competition! From a regular season performance index rating of 79.3 Monaco soared to 91.2 in the Top 16.
It would be easy to shine a light on the improved shooting of the likes of Dee Bost, Anthony Clemmons and Yakuba Ouattara and say that as they shoot, so goes Monaco. However, ask Monaco and they focus on other things.
"Defense is our trademark," Ouattara said after beating UNICS with a season-high 22 points. It was the fifth game in a row in which Ouattara raised his scoring output to finish the Top 16 with an otherworldly 12 of 17 on threes (70.6%).
Bost also spoke about effort during his post-game interview. "We played real hard," he said. "I just want to take it one game at a time and play hard."
He certainly has been playing hard; Bost has averaged 18.0 points on 8-of-17 three-point shooting over his last three games. He tallied 10.1 points on 21.8% three-point shooting in the regular season.
"We played with big intensity," explained Coach Obradovic. "It was good defense from the beginning."
That drove home the point and is exactly what opponents must be wary of and what UNICS learned the hard way. Monaco has shown that it has some elite scoring from the backcourt – and we have not even mentioned its best two scorers in the Top 16: Norris Cole and J.J. O’Brien. However, the focus is on defense and effort. When defense gets the team in a rhythm, shots will fall. Could that be a recipe to make EuroCup history?