Melvin Ejim, UNICS: 'We know we are not done'

Mar 13, 2018 by Melvin Ejim - Kazan, Russia Print
Melvin Ejim, UNICS: 'We know we are not done'

We are all looking forward to Game 3. It is going to be a big game and everyone on both sides is excited about it. It is win-or-go-home for both teams, even though at this point of the season, almost every game feels like that. We are excited to play and know it will be a tough matchup against Bayern at their place, and of course, they are going to be ready, too. I think that the fact that we survived several do-or-die games this season helps us; we have been there before, especially in the Top 16 against Limoges CSP and in Game 2 last Friday. We hope not to be with our backs against the wall again, but it is good to have experience when you are in a situation like this. I think we are going to be prepared, ready, and know what is at stake.

Bayern has the home-court advantage and that is a plus, of course, but it is also true that there will be a lot of pressure on them. Both teams have the same equal amount of pressure, and what really matters is what happens on the court. They definitely have a great crowd there, a great atmosphere, and that will help them play even better, but right now, there are a lot of factors in this game and the home-court advantage is just one of them. Bayern lost in a similar situation against Unicaja last season, hosting Game 3 of the quarterfinals, and that will be in the back of some of their players' minds. Also, they have some new players who won't care too much about that. It doesn't really change the fact that we have to go out there and play aggressive, play our best kind of basketball. I think that, still to this point, we haven't really played our best basketball. We had a good half in Game 2 at home but I think we didn't play well in Game 1 and the first half of Game 2. Hopefully, we can put that together in Game 3 and make it to the next round.

We did not play well in the first half of our last game. At halftime, Coach insisted on being more aggressive and that our shots were going to fall eventually. We just needed to limit their points in transition and just play our style. Play in the half-court, but at the same time, take advantage of the transitions that we would have. We just were able to do a better job defensively and I think we gave up just 30 points in the second half, whereas in the first half and in Game 1, we gave up many more points than that. We were able to outthink them defensively, forcing them to take tough shots. We got the rebounds, got out and ran. I hope this win changes our entire season. It could be the momentum that we needed to propel us to where we want to go and reach our goals. I think we have done a good job until this point. We come off a big win and have been in a situation like this before. Hopefully we use that to our advantage and get a good win for our momentum as a team.

It is great to be in the EuroCup playoffs. I think that, for everyone on our team, these are the moments that you live for. These are the times when you show your value as a player and so far, in every situation, we passed the test and did what we needed to be able to complete the task. Hopefully we can do that one more time, but we know it is going to be a tough matchup against these guys and they are going to be ready. Plus they have a great coach who is going to prepare them. We are excited to see how it goes!

We have some players who won the EuroCup already; Steph Lasme did it two years ago and Jamar Smith lifted it with Unicaja last season and they are definitely motivated to go all the way again. Everyone, even the guys who have never been there, want to leave everything on the court to beat Bayern. UNICS is hungry and some of us are aspiring to make it to another level. These are opportunities that we cannot miss out on and we are really excited to play this game and hopefully continue to build on that.

I think we need to defend well if we want to have a chance to beat Bayern. There are moments in which we defend extremely well and a lot in which we don't. How well we can defend will tell us how much of an opportunity we have to beat them. We cannot allow them to run and go in transition. Defense and limiting them is going to be key, because they are a team that likes to get up and down and score, reaching 85-90 points easily. Defense is always the biggest key for us, especially in a do-or-die game. I think that, so far, we have done a good job at controlling the game tempo. In Game 1, the first half was played at the rhythm we wanted - a low-scoring game, 32-33, and it was a really close game until the final five minutes, in which they broke out a little bit. Hopefully we can continue to do that. If we do it, limit them defensively and keep our turnovers low, I think we have a chance to be in a successful position at the end of the game.

If we want to win the series, we have to do what Unicaja did last season and Jamar is someone we go to for this kind of experience. He is a great clutch player able to make difficult shots, plus he has the experience and can say he has been in this exact situation before. All year, he has been a big key for us and he will continue to be a very important player, especially in this next match. No excuses; travelling to Munich has actually been pretty good and at the end of the day, it is going to go down to who wants it more, who will fight for it more. That will make for a great game in a great competition! Experience is big, but being hungry is even bigger, and UNICS is a hungry team right now. We know what we want and hopefully we can go out there and show it on the court. There is a lot at stake right now and I am sure everyone will see some really good basketball.

Games like this are the whole reason why we play at this level. We have been looking for this moment since the beginning of the season, to be close to the trophy. It is an amazing opportunity not just me for me, but for every player and coach in my team. Once again, we are excited, happy to have the chance to fight for a spot in the EuroCup Semifinals. We know we are not done. We got things that we want to accomplish and we want to go and get it!