Play-Offs Quarter-Final preview: ASVEL v Iberostar Tenerife
VILLEURBANNE (Basketball Champions League) - Iberostar Tenerife have been making waves all season, from finishing first in their Basketball Champions League Regular Season group and then reaching the Quarter-Finals to taking over the leadership in Spain's Liga Endesa.
Next up is ASVEL, a French outfit that would like nothing more than to put the Canary Islanders' bid for European glory to the sword. JD Jackson's team is eighth in the domestic standings yet it has proven on numerous occasions, especially in the Basketball Champions League, that it can be a handful.
ASVEL defeated Aris in the Round of 16 and has earned the admiration and respect of Iberostar Tenerife.
"It's a French team that has a lot of athletic guys and for sure it will be difficult playing there but we'll have some options," Tenerife's outstanding Lithuania international, Marius Grigonis, said to the Basketball Champions League website.
Tenerife were very impressive in their Round of 16 tie with PAOK. While they didn't win the opening leg on 28 February, they didn't do too badly, either. They fell behind by 12 points in the second quarter and trailed by 11 early in the fourth.
Grigonis, however, scored 7 of his 12 points in the last frame and one of his teammates, Aaron Doornekamp, also had 8 of his game-high 19 in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer at the death, that cut PAOK's first-leg advantage to just 66-63.
Doornekamp has been one of the best players in the Basketball Champions League. He has hit 45.5 percent (35 of 77) of his shots from long range and has been one of the best all-round players in the league.
"Always, if you don't know what to do, you just pass it to him and he'll shoot the 3 and he'll probably make it," Grigonis said. "So I think he makes our game easier. He opens the floor and all the defensive players must cover him and cannot help."
Someone else in the Iberostar Tenerife team is becoming more and more of a factor. Mamadou Niang, a 2.09m center, equalled his season-high of four blocked shots in the crucial second quarter of the 80-54 second-leg win over PAOK.
"We've nicknamed him the Birdman," Grigonis said. "It's really difficult to go against him because he's super long and he can jump. We enjoy watching him make those plays."
"Iberostar Tenerife are one of the favorites but we have ambition," ASVEL coach JD Jackson said.
Txus Vidoretta, the Tenerife coach, warns that ASVEL will be formidable.
"The French side is a very good team," he said. "We expect a level tie.
"It's a team that gets out on the fast break a lot at home. They have a lot of individual talent but also play as a team. They play smart."
No matter what happens when the teams trade blows in France this week, neither will book a place in the Final Four. Tuesday's game will be the first half of an 80-minute game, with the second part of the tie to be played in the Canary Islands on 29 March.