Olympiacos Piraeus, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, CSKA Moscow, AX Armani Exchange Milan, ALBA Berlin and Khimki Moscow Region all know how hard it is to beat LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne on the road. Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade looked destined to become ASVEL's eighth victim at home until the Serbian side pulled off an impressive comeback that came with a spectacular ending.
ASVEL built a 21-point lead late in the first half but watched as Zvezda wrestled away control of the game in the third quarter and then barely managed to survive some nightmare free throw shooting for an 80-83 victory. Kevin Punter finished off the game with a dagger three-pointer with 1.9 seconds left for 18 points while Vladimir Stimac scored 21 points.
Punter called the win "amazing" and said: "Give us a lot of credit. We came back from [21 points down]. We fought and fought and ended up winning in regulation. I'm just proud. It was a much-needed win."
Stimac added: "We came out and played with our hearts and gave our best and we won a very difficult game on a very difficult court because this is one of the hardest courts in EuroLeague."
Zvezda extended its winning streak to four games for a 9-9 record and has won four of its last five road games. But the Serbian team's fans must have felt their heroes were trying to give it away as Zvezda made just 13-of-25 free throws in the game, just 52.0%, including just 1 of 7 in the final 120 seconds, 5 of them with Zvezda ahead 73-79.
Punter's heroics made up for a major blunder the previous possession. Zvezda was leading 78-80 with 25 seconds left but Punter's inbounds pass was stolen by David Lighty, who then tied the game with a layup. Punter was able to redeem himself as the hero and finished with 12 of his 18 points in the final 11 minutes of the game.
Punter and Stimac guiding the team to the win may also have some Zvezda fans wondering what if, considering that both joined the team only in the past couple of weeks. Stimac was playing his third game after parting ways with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul while Punter was wearing the red and white for just the second time in the EuroLeague after leaving Olympiacos Piraeus.
Zvezda certainly deserves a lot of credit. Coming back from 21 points down is difficult anywhere, but the Astroballe has been a nightmare for visiting teams. Still, Dragan Sakota's team, which is the only team that ASVEL has beaten on the road this season, showed some strong character in making sure it wasn't ASVEL's next victim at home.