Road to the EuroCup Finals: AS Monaco

Apr 20, 2021 by Print
Road to the EuroCup Finals: AS Monaco

After winning its Top 16 group last season, AS Monaco started the 2020-21 7DAYS EuroCup season as a top contender. Coached by Zvezdan Mitrovic, Monaco has met and surpassed the expectations to reach the EuroCup Finals.

Monaco got off to a great start, winning the Battle of Microstates by downing MoraBanc Andorra 76-82 on the road behind 21 points from Dee Bost. The Principality squad went on to defeat Lietkabelis Panevezys and Telenet Giants Antwerp to improve to 3-0, but lost Khadeem Carrington to a season-ending injury. His replacement, Rob Gray, was not eligible to play until Top 16, because he started the season with another EuroCup squad, Boulogne Metropolitans 92.

Back-to-back losses against Virtus Segafredo Bologna and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar did not prevent Monaco from reaching the Top 16. Monaco routed bested Lietkabelis 64-88 behind 14 points from Abdoulaye Ndoye and finished the regular season with a 66-64 squeaker over Andorra at Stade Louis II.

Monaco left no doubt about its power in its Top 16 opener, thrashing Nanterre 92 65-93 on the road behind 20 points from Marcos Knight. Monaco went on to beat Unicaja Malaga 90-71. Mathias Lessort, who played for Unicaja in the 2018-19 campaign, led the way against his former team with 20 points and 9 rebounds. Gray had 24 points in just his second EuroCup game with the Principality powerhouse.

A road loss against Joventut Badalona did not slow Monaco down. Monaco hosted Joventut in Round 4 of the Top 16 and prevailed, 97-82, getting the tie-breaker against its main opponent in this group. Monaco advanced to the 7DAYS EuroCup Quarterfinals from first place for the second season in a row after claiming a 98-94 victory over Nanterre in a spectacular game. Bost led the charge with 22 points and 5 assists.

Monaco seemed to have everything under control and all of a sudden, it registered its most critical loss of the season, in Game 1 of the best-of-three quarterfinals series against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica, 76-77. Justin Cobbs buried the go-ahead jumper with 2.4 seconds left and, after a timeout, Lessort missed a hook shot on the buzzer.

Monaco had to win two do-or-die games to make it to the semifinals. In Game 2, played in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Monaco regained the home-court advantage with a 64-74 victory against Buducnost. Game 3 came down to the final shot and Monaco won 90-87. Lessort combined for 43 points and 16 rebounds in Games 2 and 3 and was chosen as the EuroCup Quarterfinals MVP.

Monaco played Herbalife Gran Canaria in the semifinals and used an outstanding second quarter to dominate Game 1. It outscored Gran Canaria by 24-5 to get a 44-26 margin at halftime. Gran Canaria managed to get within 75-71 already in the final minute but a three-point play by Lessort sealed the outcome. Gray buried 5 of 6 three-point shots to lead the winners with 25 points. Lessort posted 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks.

History was made on April 9 when Monaco beat Gran Canaria to qualify for the EuroCup Finals and, for the first time, gained eligibility for the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Gray nailed arguably the biggest shot in club history, a game-winning jumper with 0.2 seconds left, to win it. Knight led the way with 17 points while Bost and J.J. O'Brien each had 15 points. Knight added 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals for a PIR of 21.

Monaco is the second French League team to reach the EuroCup Finals after Strasbourg played for the EuroCup crown in 2016 and lost to Galatasaray Istanbul. It is set to face UNICS Kazan in the best-of-three finals. In the teams' only previous matchups, Monaco downed UNICS twice in last season's Top 16: 78-84 in Kazan and 85-60 at home, but, of course, playing for a title is a whole different story, in terms of intensity and pressure.