Two guards coming off two of last week’s best performances – Norris Cole of LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne and Kevin Punter of AX Armani Exchange Milan – will be across from each other on Friday night when their teams meet in Round 24.
ASVEL and Milan are two of the hottest teams in the competition. ASVEL has won three straight and four of its last five games, with its lone loss coming in dramatic fashion in overtime, while Milan has won its last six games to catapult into third place in the standings. A big part of the credit for each team’s success goes to Cole and Punter, who have been playing at a high level during their winning runs.
Last week with both teams on a double-duty, only one player combined more points in two games than Cole, who netted 42 points in ASVEL’s two victories. Punter followed with just 1 point fewer in a pair of Milan wins.
Cole opened last week scoring 20 points along with 3 rebounds and 2 assists in a home win over TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz and then topped that with 22 points in 23 minutes in a road triumph at Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade. Cole was clutch in the fourth quarter, during which he netted 15 points.
Punter shined in Round 22 with a career-high 27 points, making 4 of 4 twos and 4 of 8 threes with 5 assists in a home win over Olympiacos Piraeus, before scoring 14 points with 3 rebounds and 2 assists in a Round 23 victory over Zenit St Petersburg.
Those two games were just a continuation of each player’s performances in recent weeks. Punter has scored in double figures in each of the last five games, averaging 16.2 points during that stretch. The Milan shooting guard has scored on 64.0% of his two-point attempts and knocked down 42.3% of his three-pointers.
Cole has moved into the starting point guard role for ASVEL during its winning run, but does occasionally play as a two-guard when fellow point guards Antoine Diot or Mathew Strazel play extended minutes. Over the last five games, Cole has averaged 15.8 points and 3.8 assists, having scored 20 or more points in three of those games while finishing with 8 points in the other two.
Cole has taken more shots, albeit at lower percentages during the five-game stretch, which is similar to what we have seen from the two players all season. The ASVEL guard, who has appeared in 19 games and averaged 24:30 minutes per game, is averaging 13.6 points and 3.4 assists this season. Punter, on the other hand, ranks eighth in the EuroLeague with 14.8 points per game in 17 appearances.
Both players have fired up 79 triples with Punter having made 5 more than Cole. On the other hand, Cole has taken far more two-point shots than Punter, but the Milan guard has done it with better accuracy.
Now, the two have a chance to go against one another for the first time, since Punter was sidelined for their Round 2 game. Each player’s ability to carry his hot hand into this clash could very well decide which team will continue its winning run on Friday night.