Okobo leads ASVEL past Zalgiris
LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne started the new 2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season in style on Friday, defeating visiting Zalgiris Kaunas 88-76 before its appreciative fans at the Astroballe. ASVEL, which trailed for only one possession in the opening minute of the game, took control with 4 consecutive three-pointers early in the second quarter, and took the lead for good with 3 more in a row midway through the third. ASVEL shot 11-for-23 from downtown for the night, led by Elie Okobo who scored 23 points in 24 minutes. Chris Jones had 14 points, 6 assists and 3 steals, Youssoupha Fall collected 12 points plus 9 rebounds, while Charles Kahudi scored 11 in victory. Janis Strelnieks netted 21 for Zalgiris while Emmanuel Mudiay scored 12.
Okobo had a three-point play early and William Howard knocked down a triple for ASVEL, but Strelnieks hit a pair from downtown to help the visitors tie at 10-10. Fall had 2 put-backs and Okobo a corner triple that helped ASVEL lead 19-16 after 10 minutes. Back-to-back triples from Paul Lacombe and Kahudi opened 31-23 difference before Okobo hit back-to-back long-range daggers, including one in transition at 38-25. Strelnieks answered with a one-footed step-back triple, sparking a 2-8 run which Mudiay capped with his own shot from deep. Streleniks hit his fourth three-pointer to make it 44-36 at halftime.
Edgaras Ulanovas and Strelnieks took it inside and Joffrey Lauvergne had a put-back dunk early in the third quarter. Tyler Cavanaugh and Josh Nebo tied it 50-50 for Zalgiris midway through the third, but ASVEL replied with back-to-back threes from Jones and Antoine Diot before Jones nailed a second-chance shot from downtown to re-open a 59-50 edge. The hosts took a 63-55 lead into the fourth quarter then opened it further with a 13-1 run. Diot sparked things with a corner triple, then set up Kostas Antetokounmpo for a monster alley-oop dunk. Kahudi followed with a three-point play and a triple before Antetokounmpo's put-back dunk made it 76-56. Strelnieks kept Zalgiris alive with 7 consecutive points before a triple apiece from Niels Giffey and Ulanovas helped get the visitors within 80-71 with 4:00 to go. However, Okobo, Jones and Fall scored the next 6 points, sealing the deal.
It was some debut for ASVEL scoring guard Elie Okobo who scored a game-high 23 points by shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from two-point range and 3-for-3 from downtown. The only miss on the night for the 23-year-old came from the free-throw line, where he made 2 of his 3 shots.
ASVEL's rebounding advantage played a key role in this contest. ASVEL pulled down 35 rebounds to Zalgiris's 26, and the difference was even more significant through the first three quarters when ASVLE led 29-18 in that segment.
ASVEL offense clicking
The last two seasons, Zalgiris headed home victorious after visiting the Astroballe, and each time it allowed just 74 points in its victories. ASVEL's 88 points on this night are tied for the club's second-most points scored in a season opener this century.
Teenage phenomenon Victor Wembanyama made his EuroLeague debut, playing 3:23 minutes in the first half. He missed his only shot, and committed 2 turnovers, but the 2.20-meter center also delivered his very first blocked shot of his EuroLeague career.
Next week Zalgiris opens Round 2 by hosting Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday, while ASVEL travels to play ALBA Berlin on Friday.
Friday, October 1, 2021