Credit: Olympiacos BC-Eurokinissi Sports, AS Monaco/Direction de la Communication, Alfonso Cannavacciuolo/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
AS Monaco needed to overcome their shooting slump, resulting in 5/23 on three-point shots, to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat against Olympiacos Piraeus at the Gaston Medecin on Friday night.
|Player of the Game|
It was the Roca Team’s last home game of the season and, as Mike James said, no one wanted to leave the court with their heads down.
Standing on the shoulders of their standout American quartet, made by James, Will Thomas, Dwayne Bacon, and Devon Hall, Monaco came back from an 11-point deficit early in the third quarter to down the Reds 78-77 and force a Game 5 in Piraeus next Wednesday.
Under the eyes of a passionate Kevin Durant, and Prince Albert II, the team’s faithful supporter, the EuroLeague newcomers survived Kostas Sloukas’s three-point shot that went off the mark right at the buzzer.
“Only the win is beautiful. That’s the most important thing in the end,” coach Sasa Obradovic said in the post-game presser.
“The energy of my players tonight and in Game 2 was amazing. Winning under so much mental pressure is very hard,” he continued.
Will Thomas won most battles under the two baskets, scoring 16 points on great shooting percentages and wreaking havoc both in the paint and from beyond the arc (2/2).
“For me, Will Thomas is really the heart of this team on defense and offense,” Obradovic praised his starting power forward.
“He’s been huge, he’s an amazing professional who always supports his teammates and takes them with him.”
If Thomas was once again Monaco’s heart and soul, Dwayne Bacon provided the necessary firepower when Mike James was stopped by Olympiacos’s defense. James went 2/16 from behind the three-point line in the two outings held in the Principality, staying on the court for almost the entire Game 4.
2-pointers this season
However, when James was struggling, Bacon stepped into perfection. On Friday, he poured 21 points on 9/17 from the field plus 4 assists to back Monaco’s attempt to tie the series.
On top of everything, he also made his team’s last six points in the contest, despite missing the shot that could have sealed the victory with 13 seconds remaining.
“That’s my game. I live for these moments,” Dwayne Bacon initially told Greek broadcaster NOVASPORTS.
Regarding Game 5, the former NBA player thinks that Monaco “will have a hard time winning in Piraeus,” but added that they have already “won there” (in Game 2) and that they “have to do it one more time.”
Bacon holds that “both teams will be ready.”
Asked about Kostas Sloukas and the last play that had him guarding the Greek guard, Bacon said, “I know Sloukas is a great player, he can hit shots like that. I tried not to foul. He missed it and I am happy because he is a player who hasn’t lost many game-winners in his career.”
Yakuba Ouattara, who went scoreless but excelled on the defensive end, contests that it “was a high-intensity game, as one would expect.”
“They wanted to finish this tonight, and we wanted to force a fifth game. We’re a team that never gives up. It’s in our DNA, a basket can give us confidence and that’s what happened.
In Piraeus, it will be a closed game, anything can happen. They will have a lot of pressure, they are the favorites. We have nothing to lose,” the French guard stressed.
Monaco’s captain Leo Westermann underlined that his side played with a lot of energy and noted that the risks they took “paid off, because of the talent we have.”
“We defended better in the second half and earned the chance to play the fifth game in Piraeus. It’s a great series with some competitive and very intense clashes,” the Frenchman concluded.
For Olympiacos, that game was a missed opportunity. The Reds saw Monaco get off on a partial score of 17-2 and take a nine-point lead (70-61), to which the guests replied with a 0-10 run of their own in the fourth quarter.
In the end, it all went down to that Sloukas’ shot that could have sent the Greeks to the Final Four straight from the Principality, foregoing a nerve-wracking decider at the Peace and Friendship Stadium.
“Both teams deserved to win. It was a duel worthy of the EuroLeague post-season,” Giorgos Bartzokas said in the press room.
“It was a typical EuroLeague playoffs dogfight. We had our chance to win, but couldn’t take it. We need to consider what went wrong heading into Game 5. In any case, we’re going to fight to get that qualification for the Final Four,” the Greek coach pointed out.
On the other hand, center Moustapha Fall referred to his team’s last play, which essentially judged Game 4.
“Sloukas was under pressure and passed me the ball. I tried to catch it, but I was off-balance. I saw him and gave him the ball. It was a tough shot, sometimes you make it, and sometimes you don’t . That’s basketball,” I commented.
“We fought all season long to get the home-court advantage. Now we have to calm down, look at the next match and take it,” the French center told NOVASPORTS.
On a more personal note, Fall admitted that he shouldn’t have made his third foul, adding that it “was foolish of me.”
“I need to do better management and work. I need to protect myself better,” he added.
Referring to the atmosphere inside the team, Fall described a feeling of “normal disappointment” because of the loss.
“Tomorrow we have a day off, we will return to the gym to work and get the ticket for the Final Four,” the 30-year-old big man concluded.