Many may be surprised that LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne has taken down league leaders FC Barcelona and now Panathinaikos OPAP Athens in the last two games. But not Coach TJ Parker, who believed in his team during its 1-6 start to the season and knows it is finally showing what it can do when fully healthy.
ASVEL torched Panathinaikos from the outside in a 97-73 blowout of a Round 3 makeup game on Tuesday, hitting 17 of 24 three-pointers (70.8%) to set the club record for both triples made and accuracy. The marks also tied for 15th best all-time in the EuroLeague and sixth-most accurate in the competition’s history, respectively. That came four days after ASVEL connected on 13 of 21 three-pointers (61.9%) in an 80-68 home upset of Barcelona - going into the game as the last-placed team in the league.
The two games were a confirmation of what Parker believed he had in his team going into the club’s second straight season in the league.
"I always believed in the team. The team has been practicing well the whole time. We’ve had some issues with COVID-19, now we are just finding the rhythm," he said.
"We’ve been working hard and fighting, and I think it’s starting to show now," said David Lighty, who paced ASVEL with 19 points against Panathinaikos.
ASVEL has been dealing with major personnel problems all season. In addition to COVID-19 cases, Norris Cole, William Howard and Rihard Lomazs have all missed at least four games. Lighty, Moustapha Fall and Charles Kahudi are the only three players who have played in all nine of ASVEL’s EuroLeague games thus far.
"We see we are in rhythm. It was the first week we got everybody back. The whole team is back and now we can start working. Good things are happening right now so now we just got to keep going," Parker said.
Cole had been especially missed, playing in just three games since getting injured after the first two rounds of the season. ASVEL has won all three games Cole has played since returning and he leads the team in scoring (12.2 ppg.) and assists (4.8 apg.). Cole has been especially outstanding the last two games, collecting 14 points and 4 assists against Barcelona and 16 points and 5 assists versus Panathinaikos.
"I’ve been working hard to get back. It’s part of my job here on the team to be a leader. It sucks when you can’t get out there and compete with your brothers," said Cole, who has only played five games thus far. "Now that I am back healthy, I’m just playing my role and doing what I’m supposed to do to help us win."
If ASVEL continues to play like it has the past two games, then no victory by the French club will be a surprise.