It was a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash late on Sunday afternoon in the JEEP Elite. As second-placed Monaco hosted the fourth-placed Metropolitans 92 (Boulogne-Levallois).
The Metropolitans were holding a 2-game losing streak going into this one. While the Red and Whites were boasting an impressive 8-game winning streak, in all competitions. The latter, led by 2-time NBA Champion, Norris Cole, was leading the team in points (14.8) and assists (6), prior to the game. European basketball veteran, Vitalis Chikoko, was leading Boulougne-Levallois in points (16.5) and rebounds (6.2).
Monaco lined up with Cole and Dee Bost in the backcourt. Alongside an experienced frontcourt of Eric Buckner, Kim Tille, and Paul Lacombe. The Metropolitans had, once NBA hopefuls, Briante Weber and Rob Gray leading the guard spots. With 36-year-old Donta Smith, former Orlando Magic, Jamel Artis, and leading scorer Vitalis Chikoko covering the forward positions.
The Metropolitans struggled with Monaco’s height early on, with multiple rebounds pushing the home team to a quick 7-2 lead. Levallois-Boulogne responded through some clean mid-range looks from Artis and Chikoko. However, Monaco countered primarily through Norris Cole, who facilitated the majority of his team’s offensive plays throughout. Whilst adding some grit on the defensive end, drawing offensive fouls. As the lead was pulling away in the first, the Metropolitans fought for the final two possessions of the quarter, with the last one being a Weber mid-range buzzer-beater.
Following the first frame, the score sat at 23-16 in favour of Monaco, who were shooting at a 63% clip, to Levallois-Boulogne’s 58%. Additionally, Monaco outrebounded their opponents 11-3 early in the ballgame.
The second quarter started in a similar fashion, with Monaco continuing to dominate on the boards. Along with Cole continuing to show-off his playmaking ability. Highlighted by an early Cole play that split the Metropolitans’ defense, before a dish to Yegutte that resulted in an open slam. Monaco’s lead then grew to 16, behind a flurry of 3s from Sane and Bost. Chikoko did spark a Levallois-Boulogne comeback, alongside Artis, by playing hard in the paint to draw fouls. This continued through a Pinault 3, where the lead was brought down to as much as 10. But, Monaco regrouped and went into the half with an 18-point, 55-37, lead.
Monaco were shooting 60% from the field at the half, to Metropolitans’ 46%. The Red and Whites were winning the rebounding battle too, boasting a 24-8 swing. This was representative of their physical dominance.
In the third, the lead grew further as Monaco found success behind the 3-ball. Although, despite a quick start that ballooned the lead to 21, they stayed scoreless for the first half of the quarter. But, the Metropolitans failed to capitalize. Consequently, back-to-back post moves from Monaco bigs pushed the lead back up to 19. Bastien Pinault single-handedly forced a mini-comeback, with the score sat at 64-50 with 3-and-a-half minutes to go. Yet again, Monaco withstood the pressure, structured a 12-4 run, and set the lead at 22 going into the final frame.
The first minute of the fourth quarter saw the Metropolitans turn over the ball for a shot clock violation, due to strong team defense from Monaco. This very much set the precedent for the entirety of the game. Monaco were simply bigger, faster, and stronger than their Paris-based counterparts. Of whom, they outscored 22-12 late on, to take a 98-67 win.
Dee Bost was a standout for AS Monaco, with 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists, on 6-9 shooting. As was Landing Sane, who recorded 18 points also, on 6-11 shooting. Norris Cole finished with 13 points and 5 assists.
For Metropolitans 92, Mouphtaou Yarou had a team-high 13 points, on 3-5 shooting from the field, and 7-8 from the free-throw line. Vitalis Chikoko recorded 11 points, and 4 rebounds. Whilst Briante Weber had 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 rebounds.
It was a routine victory for AS Monaco, who shot 60% from the field throughout, and 50% from 3. The win sees them record their 9th straight in all competitions and maintain their 2nd place in the JEEP Elite, with a record of 11-2. Meanwhile, Metropolitans 92, who shot at a 40.8% clip, and at just 26.3% from 3, see their record slip to 10-4. The Paris-based outfit currently occupy the 4th spot in the standings, as they suffered their 3rd straight loss.
*Photo credit: Manuel Vitali/monaco_info/Twitter