Monaco clinches Playoffs berth awaiting the return of Mike James

2023-03-24T20:53:39+00:00 2023-03-24T22:28:07+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

24/Mar/23 20:53

Second straight appearance in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs for AS Monaco

By Eurohoops Team/

Tenth win in a row across all competitions for AS Monaco with the 90-79 victory versus Valencia Friday.

Posting his second double-double in the 2022-23 edition of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, Donta Hall paired ten points with 13 rebounds in the Regular Season Round 30 affair. “We knew coming into this game what we needed to do, the energy we needed to bring. I feel like we earned that tonight,” he discussed the fifth straight home win guaranteeing a spot in the Playoffs.

Elie Okobo put in six of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and dished a game-high seven assists. “If I can go all the way, that would be the best,” the 25-year-old guard set the bar confirming lofty goals, “We worked so hard this entire season, through the ups and the downs. The first step is the Playoffs. Let’s see what’s happening next.”

The distance grew to 17 points in the third period as youngster Matthew Strazel registered six of his 13 points. The advantage was later reduced to four points but the hosts held on and got back into a double-digit lead down the stretch.

Jaron Blossomgame threw in 14 more points behind 4/6 field goals. Rolling his right ankle with 2:19 on the clock, John Brown III exited with ten points.

Undefeated through March, Monaco’s getting five consecutive EuroLeague wins despite the recent suspension of leading scorer Mike James clinched a berth in the Playoffs. Debuting in Europe’s premier club continental competition last year, reaching the postseason was an immediate success. The next step would be surviving the next round and competing in the Final Four.

“The way we played, we deserved this Playoffs spot,” reacted head coach Sasa Obradovic in the flash interview, “Now, our position depends also on the next games. But the first goal was achieved. This is what we were talking about before the season. I am very happy for the guys, the group, all the people here in Monaco and the fans.”

James, 32, was reinstated but ruled out for the game with a sprained finger on his right hand. Overcoming the scratch and an early eight-point lead for Valencia, Monaco jumped to 20-10. Now thirteen wins over 16 affairs in Salle Gaston Medecin, a solid contribution to the bid for homecourt advantage in the Playoffs.

“It’s not easy after one day to put him in the game,” Obradovic commented on James, “I think we need his quality, especially with him coming in now, it’s a bit of a risk this the momentum we have at this moment. I believe, after these ten days, we will have a different mindset and more from the player.”

Alex Mumbru’s side was forced down to 14-16 and will be facing an uphill battle to sneak into the top eight in the four remaining fixtures of the double-legged round-robin schedule. Fresh off inking a contract extension, Chris Jones stood out with 17 points and captain Bojan Dubljevic logged 15 points in the losing effort for the trip to Fontvieille, Monaco.

“We should have been better in the defensive rebounds. We missed some easy shots and they scored some tough shots,” summed up the losing head coach.

Millan Jimenez (left ankle), Jaime Pradilla (left shoulder), Klemen Prepelic (left leg), and Sam Van Rossom (right knee) all remained on the injury list. Kyle Alexander (right ankle) was cleared to play for the first time since late February but did not leave the bench.

A two-game week on the road

With the Regular Season winding down, the upcoming double-game week is the last on the 2022-23 schedule, including a trip to the 2023 Final Four venue for both sides. La Roca Team will visit Zalgiris Wednesday and FC Bayern Munich Friday. Valencia will be at Crvena Zvezda Meridianbet Wednesday and then to Kaunas Friday.

Previously reverting to retaining the grip on France’s Betclic Elite LNB Pro A, Monaco can improve the league-leading 20-4 record by defeating Limoges CSP in Beaublanc Sunday. Sitting at 13-10 and battling for a spot in Spain’s Liga Endesa Playoffs, the Oranges will travel to Casademont Zaragoza Sunday.

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