LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne's dream return to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season continued Thursday night with an improbable comeback win against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens.
"In the craziest dreams we couldn't imagine that we would open the EuroLeague season against two legendary Greek teams, and win both games at home," is what head coach Zvezdan Mitrovic said on the floor of the Astroballe for the Euroleague.tv cameras, and repeated during the press conference after the game.
The dream becomes even wilder considering ASVEL was down by 13 points entering the fourth quarter, it had troubles defending Panathinaikos's pick-and-roll with Nick Calathes and Georgios Papagiannis, had a hard time containing Jimmer Fredette on the outside and DeShaun Thomas on the inside. And in addition to all that, ASVEL had hit just 2 three-pointers on 15 attempts through the first 30 minutes of the contest.
ASVEL hung around with a chance only because of its offensive rebounding – 16 through three quarters and 18 for the game – before things changed dramatically in the fourth quarter. David Lighty and Jordan Taylor put together a quick 8-0 run that got ASVEL right back in it and gave the team much-needed confidence. But with about 6 minutes to go is when coach Mitrovic made a decision to give the floor to a smaller lineup.
With either Taylor or Diot at point guard, or both on the floor together, there was also a lot of David Lighty and more of Edwin Jackson and Rihards Lomazs on the floor. Alongside them, it was Charles Kahudi, with his 1.96 meters serving as a stretch-four, and he delivered two key blows from the left corner - a three-pointer to cut it to 73-76, then another triple that tied the game at 78-78 with 53 seconds left.
"The key was playing small-ball, and we tried to switch to be more aggressive and we stretched Panathinaikos," Mitrovic said. It kept Papagiannis off the floor the entire fourth quarter and by making 5 of 7 threes in the final 10 minutes, ASVEL completed a comeback and is unexpectedly sitting pretty with 2-0 record in the standings.