Last time I wrote, we were in a pretty good shape in the 7DAYS EuroCup Regular Season. Unfortunately, at the time of this blog, we have lost four EuroCup games in a row. We did not start the Top 16 the way we had hoped. We prepared well, we were aware how important that first game was against MoraBanc Andorra. Who knows, maybe knowing that importance was a little extra weight on our shoulders. We did not react well in the first half, then later came all the way back to tie the game. I don't think that's too surprising, because both us and MoraBanc are type of teams that can build a lead quickly – but lose it quickly, too. In the end of that game, our mistakes helped MoraBanc, which I have to say is playing really good and pretty basketball.
Of our four straight EuroCup losses, two came at the end of the regular season in two meaningless games when we knew we would not be anything but third in our group and our coach rested some players. But the last two, in the Top 16, they hurt us, especially that MoraBanc game, which we will need to recoup on the road somewhere.
"We are capable of beating any team in the competition, but obviously, of losing against any of the teams in our group."
We have injury problems, which made our bench shorter, and with a lot of games on the schedule you can feel it a little bit. We dearly miss Marko Banic and Karlo Zganec. But I still think we are a team capable of turning things around, just like we did in the Adriatic League. There, we had a bad start but we have now won nine games in a row. That includes beating Partizan Belgrade, another EuroCup Top 16 team, on the road in a big game in a packed Hala Pionir. So, we might be 0-2 in the EuroCup, but we are still optimistic about our season.
This week we play UNICS Kazan, which every season has a team that contends for the EuroCup title. They are very tough to beat, which they prove week after week. However, I think last season they had a team that was a lot better than ours, nonetheless we had a great shooting night and beat them by 20 points on our home floor. So, I believe in us despite our injury problems. We are capable of beating any team in the competition, but obviously, of losing against any of the teams in our group.
We are going to re-visit Russia, where we went just last week to play Zenit St. Petersburg, and where we also were in December to play Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. So this will be our third time to Russia in just over a month. I have to admit, for us big guys, these long trips and flights are tough. It is not easy to get yourself moving again. However, it's the same for all teams, and even more so for UNICS, Zenit and Lokomotiv, who have long flights wherever they go. One of the important things after such a long trip is to recover and regain energy.
"Every EuroCup team this season has two or three players who are able to dominate."
UNICS has a long bench, a quality team put together to go to the end. But every EuroCup team this season has two or three players who are able to dominate, and who are really tough to play against. I think one that might impress me the most is Jamel McLean form Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. That is a EuroLeague player, so tough to guard. He attacks you with so many weapons. Also, Andrew Albicy, who hit 6 of 8 three-pointers in that MoraBanc win, is another player who impresses me every season. I remember him from when I was in Belgium; he still played back home in France, but our clubs we would play friendly games. I have followed him ever since, and that guy is incredible, how much he improved. He is an excellent playmaker. Another player I admire is my teammate Jacob Pullen. When he has his shot going, he is unstoppable.
Well, to wrap things up, I would say we still have four games to go, two of them on our home floor, and we still have a chance to turn things around. I think we are a team that can play against anybody. It is sometimes a matter what kind of shooting night we will have, but with players like Pullen, Kruska (Filip Kruslin, for those who are not familiar with his nickname) or Justin Cobbs, who can each destroy any team, I hope our shooting will serve us well in the coming games.
Wish us luck!