We are in the playoffs. We have reached our first goal and I am happy about that. This is my first playoffs and I am very motivated to play in my first playoffs. This is the high point of our season so far, but we need to continue.
We have been playing very up and down. We are not stable. We have lost a lot of away games and we need to fix that as soon as possible. I don’t know why we are playing like that; in home games we are playing well, but away games are something that we need to be better at. I hope in the playoffs when we go to Madrid we will be much better.
One of the most difficult things for our team this season was adjusting to new players. When new guys come to a team in the middle of the season, it's not easy, especially for Coach Pascual, who has a lot of tactical things, a lot of offensive sets. We needed some time to bring those guys into the team. I think now that we have been together for two months, those new guys are more comfortable and we are better as a team. They help us. Mike James is a very good scorer. I think he's one of the best scorers in the EuroLeague. Adreian Payne is great at his job; he’s a great rebounder. We are better with those guys.
We all know that the playoffs are just another basketball game. Of course, it's the playoffs, but we can’t think that way. We have to play our game and not think that it's the playoffs or there is more pressure on us. We have to go and play, give 100% and try to win.
The home-court advantage is very important for us. Everybody knows that we have one of the best fan bases in Europe. Madrid knows that, too. I think teams don't want to play against us at OAKA. It's a very big advantage for us. That’s why we were trying to win a lot of games in the regular season, to get the home-court advantage. We reached that goal and we are happy about that.
Real Madrid is a good team. All the teams in the playoffs are great teams. Madrid likes to play fast; they have a lot of good small guys like Campazzo and Doncic of course. But they have good shooters and good centers. The whole team is really good. There is no one spot where they are weak. They have everything. We just need to play smart. We can't let them feel the game from the beginning, to score easy shots. I hope we can do that.
The most important thing will be to play good defense. We are a good team on offense. They are a good team on offense. We were a fast team before, but Mike James is a wild player. He likes to score; he likes to play fast. We are even faster with him. I think for opponents it is not easy to play defense against us because we have a lot of talent on offense. The team that plays better defense will have more chances to win.
I have a lot of friends on my old team, Zalgiris, and I talk to them and know there is a lot of excitement in Lithuania now for them to be in the playoffs. I read the Lithuanian media. They are very excited because it's the first time in very long time. The city is excited. The fans are excited. I think the tickets will be sold out for sure because Lithuanians love basketball and now Zalgiris has reached the playoffs, so they are more excited.
Zalgiris will play a team I know well, our rival in Greece, Olympiacos. I think the key will be the home-court advantage. It is very difficult to play in Olympiacos's arena. It will be full of people. Zalgiris is not a very experienced team; they don’t have a lot of players who have been to the playoffs, it's a young team. That will be the key, I think. Zalgiris must play faster and with more energy, but that will be difficult for them.
Because of the playoffs, I have been holding off on taking in visitors. I told my friends not to come now. I need to be focused on the games. But after the playoffs, there is a line of friends and family waiting to come visit. It will be summer soon and the weather is great. I am excited to share Athens with them.