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Threatening ASVEL is coming to Milano, Coach Messina: “Moving the ball faster will be crucial for us”


Olimpia will try to extend its winning streak against ASVEL Villeurbanne on Thursday, 21 of October, but the French champions are going to be tough. They have won three of the first four games and are candidates to contend for a playoff spot this season, despite having had to deal with some absences so far, especially the ones of David Lighty and Antoine Diot, both supposed to return in Milan. Olimpia have already experienced during the preseason, in Paris, the danger of a team equipped with extreme athleticism and physicality. During the last two seasons, Olimpia has lost twice to ASVEL, always on the road. Milan has built its four wins with its defense: 70.3 points allowed per game, 50.7 percent allowed from two, 26.2 percent allowed from three. This is the key figure because ASVEL has been the best EuroLeague team in three-point shooting so far, with 45.2 percent of accuracy thanks to the extraordinary hot shooting of Chris Jones, Eddie Okobo and William Howard, and also the best two-point shooting team, over 59 percent. The return of Lighty and Diot accentuates the potential efficiency of the offense, even if ASVEL has not used its perimeter shooting in a massive way. In fact, it is 10th for threes scored on average, right where Olimpia is first with 11.2 made threes per game (it is also third for accuracy, with 40.5 percent).

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “We have the utmost respect for what Tony and TJ Parker are building in the Lyon-Villeurbanne area, both on and off the court. I’m not surprised by their record, because ASVEL is a deep team, very athletic and with a lot of versatility. For us, defending well on their shooters, controlling the rebounds against a red hot team in terms of shooting, will be crucial. A key will be moving the ball faster and faster in order to overcome their athleticism”.

KYLE HINES – “ASVEL is a tough team, who will represent a very important test for us with its athleticism, physicality and the quality of their shooters. We are building our identity, especially defensively, and we want to continue what we are establishing and prolong our momentum.”

THE REFEREES – Benjamin Jimenez (Spain), Uros Nikolic (Serbia), Saso Petek (Slovenia).

ASVEL VILLEURBANNE – ASVEL Villeurbanne lost at home to Maccabi in the last round, but before it had won the first three games including a come from behind win over European champions Anadolu Efes. ASVEL enters the game with a very high offensive performance, averaging 79.8 points per game, over 59 percent from twos and 45 percent from three. David Lighty has still to make is debut, but he returned over the weekend in the league game and therefore he will certainly play in Milan. The offense was led by the two guards, Chris Jones, coming from Maccabi, who is averaging 17.0 points per game, and is shooting 53.3 percent from three, and Eddie Okobo, 16.5 points also a 53.3 percent three-point shooter, a guard who played at Pau Orthez before moving to America where he appeared in 55 games with the Phoenix Suns. Both have always started so far along power forward Dylan Osetkowski and the lethal shooter William Howard, who is making 57.1 percent of his threes so far. The very experienced James Gist has been the starter in the last three games as a center. Kostas Antetokounmpo, one of the NBA Finals’ MVP brothers, made the winning basket against Efes and is now 14-for-17 from the field. Veteran Antoine Diot, guards Matthew Strazel and Paul Lacombe, forward Charles Kahudi and of course the big center Youssoupha Fall also come off the bench.

HISTORY – During the EuroLeague era, Olimpia and ASVEL Villeurbanne have met only three times. Two years ago in France, ASVEL won 89-82 thanks to 19 points from David Lighty and 18 from Jordan Taylor, while Olimpia had 13 points and 10 assists from Sergio Rodriguez. Last year in Milan, Olimpia won 87-73 with 17 points and seven rebounds by Shavon Shields. In France, ASVEL prevailed 78-69 despite Shields’s 18 points. However, in their history they faced each other many times: in the 1966/67 European Cup (the reigning champion Simmenthal lost the final to Real Madrid), Milan won on the road 86-66 (23 points were scored by Gabriele Vianello, Red Robbins had 21) and at home 103-85 (Steve Chubin 26, Robbins 21). In the 1995/96 Korac Cup, Olimpia eliminated ASVEL in the semifinals, winning 81-72 on the road and 73-69 at home. In the 1997/98 Eurocup, in which Olimpia reached the final losing it to Zalgiris, in the quarterfinals it eliminated ASVEL, winning away 67-58 (24 points were scored by Thurl Bailey) and surviving a defeat at home 70 -62 despite Flavio Portaluppi’s 17 points. Overall, so it’s 6-3 in Olimpia’s favor, 3-2 in Villeurbanne, but 1-2 during the EuroLeague era.

THE ASVEL CONNECTION – ASVEL president Tony Parker played in San Antonio for Ettore Messina. James Gist during the last season played the EuroLeague playoffs with Bayern Munich against Olimpia and in the 2018/19 season at Panathinaikos he was a teammate of Dinos Mitoglou.

GAME NOTES – Kaleb Tarczewski has scored 280 two-point field goals in his career. The all-time leader in the EuroLeague for Olimpia is Vlado Micov with 281. Sergio Rodriguez has scored 127 threes for Olimpia and is now second all-time behind Vlado Micov’s 162 threes. Rodriguez has scored at least one three in 13 consecutive games and has just surpassed Paulius Jankunas as the sixth-best all-time leading scorer. Malcolm Delaney has now scored more than 1,500 points for his career and is just two steals away from 100. Devon Hall has scored in double figures in each one of his first four games of his EuroLeague career and is leading all the rookies for minutes played, 116.33. Nicolò Melli enters the game 10 rebounds shy of 1.000 for his career.