It would be hard to ask for a better season start than what LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne did on Friday night, downing visiting Zalgiris Kaunas 88-76.
ASVEL was in control for the majority of the night, and after using a 9-0 run midway through the third quarter, ASVEL never allowed the visitors to come closer than 8 points again.
As important as avoiding any thought of a fourth-quarter drama, ASVEL also dominated inside, outrebounding the visitors 35-26, and played defense that held Zalgiris to just 45.9% on two-point shots.
"Good job, good teamwork in general," ASVEL head coach T.J. Parker said in the post-game press conference. "We brought the intensity in the second half."
In that teamwork, two players did stand out.
"Elie Okobo and Chris Jones are the top two choices to run the backcourt this year in ASVEL," Parker said after the victory. "I have full confidence in them."
And rightly so.
Scoring guard Okobo led the way, pouring in 23 points in 24 minutes. Just 22 days shy of his 24th birthday, Okobo shot a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor. Combo guard Jones, who made his EuroLeague debut with Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv last season, ran the offense with 14 points and 6 assists, while setting the defensive tone with 3 steals, too.
Center Youssoupha Fall stood tall inside with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Add in the contributions from Kostas Antetokounmpo and Dylan Ostekowski, and it brings ASVEL's newcomers to a tally of 57 points in their season opener.
That's not to say that the newcomers were the only ones doing the damage. In the third quarter, Antoine Diot hit a pair of key triples and fed Antetokounmpo twice for monster dunks. Charles Kahudi scored 8 of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Such balance and many players shining in their roles will certainly make Parker happy. And ASVEL fans, finally back at the Astroballe in high numbers, will be newly optimistic and excited about the EuroLeague journey ahead.