Nanterre 92 faced a tough challenge against Herbalife Gran Canaria at home, not only because it had to play a 7DAYS EuroCup home game with no fans for the first time this season and was also missing head coach Pascal Donnadieu. Just as difficult was its opponent, one of the best teams in Group D, which was fresh off a convincing win over Promitheas Patras the previous week thanks to a terrific offensive performance in which it scored 98 points and hit 19 three-pointers.
The hosts, on the other hand, had lost their last four games in a row and needed to bounce back as soon as possible to keep their qualification chances alive. Also, they had one of the EuroCup's worst offenses so far, with less than 73 points per game. So, it was crystal clear that something different must be done in order to change the trend.
Nanterre had a plan to achieve it, and it all started in defense.
"They are a high-scoring team and we wanted to hold them under 75 points, and we gave up just 74 in the end," Nanterre forward Brian Conklin revealed after the game.
It wasn't easy, though, especially early in the game. Gran Canaria swingman Stan Okoye came out smoking after tipoff to score 21 points in the game's first 11 minutes, boosting the visitors to an 18-30 lead early in the second quarter.
But Nanterre refused to surrender.
"We needed to get back to what we have been working on all week, to play aggressive," explained Conklin, who stopped the drought at that moment with 2 timely free throws. "Then we got some shots and played in transition, which was good for us."
Once that defense started working, it was Nanterre guard Chris Warren who took over for good. The American guard, in his third stint with Nanterre, came up big on offense with back-to-back triples and a fastbreak layup to tie the game at 40-40. From then on, nobody but him pulled the strings.
Warren ended up registering career-high 25 points and posting 6 assists for a performance index rating of 23, which was also his best in the 7Days EuroCup. But beyond those numbers, Warren displayed a total dominance over Andrew Albicy and Franco Ferrari, who were held to 5 points and 11 PIR combined. His flashy moves, three-point accuracy and timely fastbreak baskets were key factors in his team's victory.
The most remarkable thing about Warren's performance was his consistency all game long. He scored 5 points in the first period, 8 in the second, 6 in the third and 6 in the last one.
Many of those points came in key moments of the game. In addition to his eight-point spark that tied the game before halftime, Warren supported his team in the third period when the visitors tried to react. Later, when Gran Canaria tied the head-to-head tiebreaker entering the last minute, 86-74, he added 4 points in a row to win it and keep Nanterre in the fight for a Top 16 qualification.
As Nanterre assist coach Phillippe Da Silva, who substituted for Donnadieu, recognized once the outcome was sealed:
"We have the chance to play for the Top 16. We are in this situation, and I said the same to the guys: Enjoy playing this game, enjoy doing your job."