After winning five games in the first 18 tries, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne has now won three of its last four. The theme in Wednesday night's come-from-behind 83-77 win over TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz was similar to its previous wins – defense – but with a tweak.
"We know what it takes in the EuroLeague to win," ASVEL head coach T.J. Parker said, once again, after the victory. He was, as in some previous instances, referring with these exact same words to his team's defensive effort.
After falling behind by 14 points in the second quarter, and facing a 35-46 deficit at halftime, ASVEL allowed only 7 points in the third quarter. After allowing nearly 50 points in the first two quarters, ASVEL had a span of more than 11 minutes bridging the third and fourth quarters during which it allowed only 1 field goal. It turned a 38-49 deficit into a 65-56 advantage before Baskonia finally restarted its offense.
"We played great defense as a team, we rebounded the ball well and we did not turn the ball over," said one of the heroes in this win, veteran point guard Norris Cole, about ASVEL's second half. "When we do that, with an aggressive mindset, we give ourselves a chance to win every game."
In each of its two previous wins, just like in this one, ASVEL managed to keep opponents at 77 points or fewer. The tweak is that this time, just a little bit more than one quarter of excellent defense was enough for ASVEL to win. Baskonia scored at least 20 points in each of the other three quarters, but a spectacular defensive effort in the third was enough for the hosts to come out on top.
The reason for that is that ASVEL's offense got going, making jump shots and three-pointers. Cole hit a pair of triples early in the third quarter to spark a rally and David Lighty strung together 9 points to get ASVEL in front and then build a double-digit lead. When Baskonia started making shots again in the fourth quarter, the same veteran duo stepped up down the stretch.
Cole hit top-of-the key jumpers on back-to-back possessions to make it a 9-point game with 2:20 to go before Lighty made a tough baseline jumper and then iced the game with a mid-range shot with 20 seconds left.
A glance at the stats will say that ASVEL hit 9 triples on the night, although those did come from seven different players. However, ASVEL also made 10 long or mid-range jumpers, which were crucial in this victory. Taking - and making - those shots down the stretch displayed the high level of confidence that ASVEL's players currently have. Now the team travels to Belgrade to try to use that confidence to continue its winning run on the road on Friday.