We come off a big win for us against ASVEL in France. It was a big character win. We were not playing really well and got ourselves in a position in which we needed to win this one or we were out. We wanted to put ourselves in a good position going forward and it was good that we won this huge character game. We needed it and we showed the kind of team that we are and how we can play when we lock in. We had nine points in the first quarter, though. I think that all of us knew that no matter what was happening during the game, we had to get it done, you know? No matter what the score was, no matter what the situation was, we had to get it done whatever was happening, whether or not we started off slow. They made a couple of baskets and went on a run but we thought, "Alright, that's cool, but we gotta win this one." We battled through, doing whatever it took to win. We knew we would have the opportunity to go on some runs and the game was a battle the whole way through. We had the mentality of getting out of there with a win and used that mentality to get out of any bad situation we had during the game.
We knew that ASVEL has a clear leader in John Roberson, its best scorer. He is a really good player and we knew that a big part of limiting ASVEL would be limiting him and the shots he was taking. We just to make it super difficult for him to get shots off, but he still finished the game with 17 points on not as great of a game as he usually has. We tried to slow him down and our guards did a good job. We definitely gave him a lot of attention and managed to limit him, especially in crunch time, which was a big help. Jamar [Smith] and Quino [Colom] had a great game but I think we all did a great job playing team defense. We had a lot of guys coming in and out and everybody helped. It was a team win.
What I like about Quino is that he has all the qualification possibilities inside his head, which has been important, especially in the last couple of weeks, when we were in this situation. Everyone was asking him: "Quino, what needs to happen?" And he would tell everyone, "Well, we need to win by this much, this and that.". Whatever combination we needed to qualify to the next round, he knew it – what the score needed to be or what we needed to do. Everyone goes to Quino and he is our go-to guy when it comes to possibilities. I think he has someone inside the EuroCup to double-check stuff! But he is definitely the person that we go to when we need information. Even our coaches check with him to be sure!
Quino is a leader, he understands the game and the people. That is what makes him such a good player and such a good leader in this team. He really helps us in so many aspects of the game and is probably one of the underrated players in Europe. From what I hear, he is extremely underrated. He has been successful at so many different levels and plays for the Spanish national team. He really brings a lot to this team and is a super unselfish point guard who gives people the ball. At the same time, he commands the game and comes up big when needed. He has the skill set and the capability of playing at the highest level.
This week the calculations are easy. ASVEL plays in Reggio Emilia on Tuesday. If Reggio wins, we will be second and play against Bayern Munich. If ASVEL wins, we need to beat Limoges on Wednesday to qualify and if we do, we will be first and play against Zenit or Fiat Turin. We will know what we need to do before the start if our game but are definitely going to try to beat Limoges no matter what. The situation works in our favor, but we want to be in the best position regardless what happens, and we will get that by winning the game. All three teams know what they need to do to secure a spot in the next round. At the end of the day, we have to go out there and take care of business, which is all that matters.
I am not really sure what is best – qualifying without playing or having to play a high-pressure game knowing that we can be first if we win, but out if we lose. To me, I think getting to the next round is most important. I don't really care how it happens but I think that no matter if we finish first or second, we will play against a very good team regardless. You have to beat the best if you want to be the best! At the same time, being able to play for first place would be very interesting. It doesn't really matter because like I said, we have to take care of our own business and whatever happens with the rest of the group happens. And then we will carry on trying to do our best whether we play at home or on the road. We know that we will play against tough teams, and for me, it doesn't really matter where we play against them.
It is really cold in Kazan but I have been to many different places where you have cold weather in winter, so it is not really a problem. It has been fun for me, with my son growing up, as he was able to see the snow. The weather is not as bad as people believe. You just have to wear big jackets and stay inside. Steph Lasme is from Gabon but lives in Massachusets, so he already knows what to wear in wintertime and how to deal with cold weather. He is one of the most prepared guys here! He has the huge jackets, the Russian hat and his wife in Russian, so they know what is going on. He talks about Gabon but doesn't complain about the weather.
So, we are looking forward to this game and whatever comes next. We have to stay together and are extremely excited about the chance to reach the EuroCup playoffs, to play against the best and win. We know that we have to put in a lot of work and it is going to be even tougher from now on if we want to be successful. We are really excited and at the same time, humble to be a part of this. These are the games and the situations that you live for, the decisive games. We want to keep pushing this momentum and keep trying to do our best. Hopefully, we will be in a good position at the end of the season!