Winner of the first French Cup in its history, AS Monaco does not have time to celebrate more than one night (90-70). With three days to go before the Euroleague playoffs against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the Roca Team is full of confidence. Necessary for Sasa Obradovic, who intends to take his team to the Final Four.
After Germany and Russia, Sasa Obradovic has just added a French trophy to his collection of national cups. His first title with AS Monaco, his team went to get it against his eternal rival, ASVEL, which had deprived him for a few seconds of a French championship title just ten months ago. This season, the Serbian coach has beaten Lyon-Villeurbanne in each of his five confrontations. A nice revenge.
This first of the Serbian tactician is also the first of a whole club, the one that allows to enter the history. But it probably has an even more special flavor in view of the scenario of the final and this clear domination which is illustrated by the 20 points difference at the final whistle, in a sold out Bercy (15 667 spectators). All these things allowed Sasa Obradovic to smile on Saturday night. But only a slight one, because the season is not over.
“We played very well for the entire game. We deserved this win and we are very happy at the end of such an event. Honestly, I was a little bit afraid before this game because during the last two weeks, we were not as competitive, we were not yet in that playoff mode that you have to have at this time. I will do everything to convince people that winning ASVEL five times this season doesn’t matter to me because in sports, you can lose a lot of games and win one right after. But it’s not easy to get that out of your head when you play against them. We attacked the game well, with seriousness, that’s why we won. In the French championship, there are many other very competitive teams. I celebrate tonight but the road is still long. We are facing something bigger, the Euroleague Final Four.”
Already looking to Maccabi Tel Aviv
The Roca Boys are hungry for trophies. Finally, they have won one on home soil. Now the conquest of a European title has never seemed so close in the minds of Monaco: “This final has given us confidence. We will play at home, in a good atmosphere and I hope we will take this spot for the Final Four, “added the Monegasque coach.
His pilgrimage begins with a return to Gaston-Medecin for the receptions of Maccabi Tel Aviv of Lorenzo Brown, Wade Baldwin and Bonzie Colson, Tuesday and Thursday. Each team has won a matchup in the back-and-forth regular season duel. The last one was played on March 2, with a wide and impressive 86-67 win for the Rock players. After that, the Israeli team won seven times in eight Euroleague games to close the season in fifth place and with the best home record in the competition. Home court advantage, in Monaco’s favor, is already a boon in this series.
As Sasa Obradovic recalled, the Monegasque collective seemed to lose its splendor during the last month. A month of March when Monaco aligned 10 victories in a row without the total presence of Mike James, a time removed from the group. The point guard showed however that he was back. After a great performance to close the Euroleague season in Munich, he scored 20 points in the French Cup final. With him, the team can win titles. In a press conference, Sasa Obradovic responded to this newfound balance in his squad:
“You know, Jordan Loyd wasn’t there, he’s a major part of our team and yet we played a perfect game. Whether it was while Mike James was out or now, this team always finds a way to win games. Some players even deserve a little more attention like Matthew Strazel. He has found his role and puts the team in the best situations. I also think of Yoan Makoundou or Yakuba Ouattara, who almost didn’t play the final. He took risks and could have been injured, it shows what kind of man and captain he is for his team.”
Coach Sasa even added a very flattering note to the MVP of the French Cup final: “Elie Okobo is part of the top 3 of the best backs in Europe, I am sure. He has the character of a lion! Today, he was very good from the beginning but even when he starts badly, he manages to raise his desire. He has something special.”
Photo : © AS Monaco Basket