The 7DAYS EuroCup is back for its most decisive games at the end of the Top 16 and we are very positive. We have some guys injured, but hopefully, we will be close to full strength as soon as possible, by next Wednesday, but we know we have a home game against Gran Canaria that is do-or-die for us and are very positive about playing it at home. We haven't played a lot in February. We had some time off earlier, around February 8 for a couple of days, but we have been in the gym going really hard. We are dying to play basketball again.
I think we played one game in the whole of February, so we are tired of looking at each other and playing against each other. We are ready to see some new faces, work together and get a W. We already beat Gran Canaria on the road. I think we had that game in our hands until the end, but we really messed it up. We almost lost it for ourselves. We know that beating a team two times is hard, so we are glad to have this game on our court where we get a bunch of energy on our baskets and try to get another win because we desperately need it.
"We are dying to play basketball again."
I expect a very different game because Gran Canaria – and also UNICS and Andorra – did not play in the cup week, so all teams will be with a different rhythm this time. Earlier, when we played them, everyone was in rhythm and had played a bunch of games two times a week, so this will be different. Gran Canaria played an ACB game before they played us and we had an ABA League game, too. But other than that, it would be a fresh game for both of us coming off this break.
We have to not turn the ball over and contain their guards. AJ Slaughter killed us in that last game, so we've got to make sure we pay high attention to him. I know him well and he is a great shooter. He plays for the Polish national team as a point guard, so he has played in that position before and even though they also have Andrew Albicy, he has the ball in his hands a little bit towards the end of the game. So he's very dangerous on and off the ball.
The good thing for us is that Gran Canaria and Andorra have to face UNICS, which is fighting for the home-court advantage in the playoffs, not just quarterfinals, but maybe beyond that. They have a very strong team. They are 10 to 12 deep and play with a bunch of energy. Their energy is amazing! So they're definitely high contenders to win the whole thing and I like the way they play. We need them to keep doing what they've been doing - keep winning! And then we need to go ahead and grab two wins ourselves, so hopefully, they come out to play both their games and take care of business.
If UNICS and Virtus are first, they may face each other in the semifinals. Whoever plays smarter would win. Athletically, UNICS is not a team Bologna wants to play against, but I think if it comes down to tactics in playing smart, I think Virtus can get them.
"It would be a fresh game for both of us."
Isaiah Whitehead had a great game in Gran Canaria and I am sure they watched a lot of video to try to stop him. He is such a big guard that moves very well for his size. His outside game is good, but his ability to get to the basket is just undeniable. When he is ready to get to the basket, there are not many players who can stop him. That had been huge for us and he is one of our go-to players out there.
Johnny Hamilton is a great mid-season addition for us; I am surprised we got him. But we got him kind of in a rest between games, so having this break has probably been very good for him just to get acclimated with the guys and with the chemistry. I expect big things from him for sure. And Taylor Smith has been our anchor for our bigs. He's been playing amazing all season. He's definitely like Kyle Hines. He has the same thing - athleticism, big hands. He doesn't play his size, he plays way bigger than his size and he is mobile. So that's definitely our Kyle Hines.
Of course, we still miss our fans, but we have to get used to it because these games are starting to mean more and more and they could become more important. So the lock-in and the focus is almost as if the fans were there because it doesn't matter. These games are do-or-die for us. The pressure is fine. If we are in this situation, it's because we made it to the Top 16 and if you have pressure, it means that your team is doing good. So to actually be in these types of situations, our team has been doing something well all year. So it's no pressure. You got to come out and protect home court.