Hello again! Well, we come off a tough loss against ALBA Berlin that leaves us in a do-or-die situation. It will all go down to one game, against Rytas Vilnius on the road, and only the winner will advance to the playoffs. As I said, ALBA was the last team we played against and definitely deserves to be first in our Top 16 group. They really impressed me with their defense and how aggressive they are. They are a strong team and it is something we have to add to our game, that aggressiveness. We have been a good defensive team all season, but ALBA really surprised us. They did the right things on offense, sharing the ball, and were really tough on defense, not allowing us to get a rhythm in the game.
So, our 7DAYS EuroCup season goes down to this do-or-die game. As a basketball player, you live for games like this. We really live for these moments. It is going to be really tough because we have to play on their home court. We know we will have a full gym against us, but we've already experienced that and had some big wins on the road. We managed to beat Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade, and I believe we will play in a similar atmosphere in Vilnius. We know how it will be, and it is up to us to do the right thing and be ready. It is a direct fight for the playoffs and it will be a very, very tough game.
"It is a direct fight for the playoffs and it will be a very tough game."
I am feeling good. I had a little injury against Galatasaray and it took me a little while to get back, but I am feeling good now, ready to help the team in this critical game. Everything is tougher in this Top 16: the intensity, the opponents, the quality of the games. Everything improved from the regular season to the Top 16 by one or two levels. One of our regular season opponents, Andorra, is already in the playoffs. I knew it was a very good team but I didn't expect them to do so well in such a difficult Top 16 group. I am really happy for them; they are doing a good job.
ASVEL is also through, which is great for French basketball. It will be better if we have two French League teams in the playoffs, but that is up to us right now! ASVEL is a very good team, dangerous everywhere, at any position. They have a lot of players who can do very well in any game. The starting five and the players coming off the bench are almost at the same level of quality. They are really aggressive on defense, and then they move the ball so well on offense that everybody is involved. This is why they are doing so well this season. They signed Alexis Ajinca, an experienced big guy, so they will be even better from now on. We will try to stay in the EuroCup and keep doing well, to keep representing Monaco and the French League.
As you know, we already played against Rytas at home. It was a tough game and we won by 5 points, 75-70. It all starts with good defense for us and this is the main thing we need to do in this important game. Rytas is a team that likes to run and it is up to us not to allow them to find their rhythm. We have to stop their fastbreak opportunities, and you only get to do that by being smart and playing good defense. We have to take care of the ball, limiting turnovers, and be aggressive on the offensive and defensive boards. We had big troubles against ALBA; they got 21 offensive rebounds. That cannot happen again.
Seeing Elmedin Kikanovic play against Artsiom Parakhouski will be very interesting, too. "Kika" will have a big game, I am sure. He is the kind of player who gives his maximum in this kind of situation. They have really experienced guards like Chris Kramer, Rok Stipcevic and D.J. Seeley, but I am ready to fight from the first second until the final one. This is the kind of games in which a player like me gains experience. You don't really have many opportunities to get to the EuroCup playoffs and now that we have one, we have to go for it. We have to go out there and get it.
We are traveling to a basketball country to fight for our future in a big European competition. As I said, we live for these moments. Making it to the EuroCup playoffs in our first season in the competition would be amazing and it is a great motivation for all of us: the club, our fans and everyone in the AS Monaco organization. We have worked really hard this season and it would be a big accomplishment for us. We have a great opportunity to reach the EuroCup playoffs and will leave everything on the court to make it happen!