First of all, I think that we should have played harder against Fenerbahce last week. I don't think we fought, Fenerbahce saw that and took advantage of it. Most of the game, they played primarily with four guards and a forward. They switched everything and prevented Mike James from playing one-on-one or pick-and-roll, trying to make us figure it out. Kudos to them, because that is why they are the club that they are. It doesn't matter who is playing or not, they figure out a way to try to win every game. This is exactly what happened; once they started making shots, their confidence is good as it always is. They know they are a very good team that like runs like a machine. They ran with it and there was nothing we could do. We tried to make a run in the third quarter and were close in the fourth quarter, but next thing we know, they went from a 5-point lead to a 13-point lead, and the rest is history.
I really think that seeing how we played in that game, we really need to understand what it is going to take to win on Thursday, which is a complete 180. We have to play hard, play together and fight for our lives if we want to be in the playoffs. This is the reaction I am looking forward to. We have to win and wait for other results. The main thing is just to win because it is what we can control. We have to win and then worry about everything else that follows. It is not really on us and everybody has its own situations to try to make it to the playoffs. A lot of teams are fighting for those last three spots. The biggest is winning the game and we will see how the rest of it plays out.
"We are ready for 40 minutes of hustle."
We already beat Efes at home this season. I really think that everybody, if they think about that game, is not thinking about Mike's winning shot at the end. I am actually thinking about how we were up by 16 points going into the fourth quarter and we did not play well after that. We fell asleep at the wheel and they took advantage of that by playing team basketball as they always do, just as Efes is playing the whole year. They played hard and fought to get back in the game and take the lead. That is exactly the image that I have from that game; walking on the court at the end of the third quarter and thinking "We are up by 16, let's play hard and finish this one off," but it came down to Mike hitting a miraculous shot from the top of the key. I think we have to understand how we played in that first game and try to bring our energy into this one. Efes is a very good team, but so are we, like I always say. It is all about who shows up on the floor that day, what type of team we are: a team that is fighting or one that is laid-back, waiting to be attacked. Whoever shows up in that attack mode will win this game, I really think so.
We are ready for 40 minutes of hustle. Everything has to be left behind. If you are tired, if you are not feeling well, if you don't think you are going to be useful... everybody has to drop that and just come in ready to play. This is a huge opportunity for us because of how our season has been going this year. We dropped our opportunity to win the Italian Cup, but making it to the playoffs could kind of make it for that. It would give us the chance to compete for the EuroLeague championship. Everything else has to be left behind, it is time just to think about winning. Win, win, win. I don't care how tired I am, what is hurting or anything like that. I just want to win and I know my teammates are going to feel the same exact way once we start the game on Thursday.
This is the EuroLeague and we don't expect any favors. Nobody goes out there and doesn't try to win. Some people probably thought that since Fenerbahce was leaving behind 3-4 players home when they came here, they wouldn't come out to play hard and win. This game is not a joke. Every time you step on the floor in this league, you are trying to win the game. It doesn't matter who is on the floor or who is on the bench, you are trying to win. This is exactly what I am looking forward to; I know that Efes is going to come out and play hard. Why wouldn't they? What we are paid to do is what we love to do, so why wouldn't they show up for that game? The main thing for us is to go out there and fight as if our lives depended on it.
"We have to fight for every single possession in every single second of that game."
I love the new format because you get to play everybody twice and get to go at least once to each city, play in those arenas. You allow all fans to see every single team - I love the format! I enjoy it, I really do! It is going to be even more fun next year when we have two more teams added to the pot. I think it is a really cool thing - everybody has the opportunity to play everywhere. It took the EuroLeague to another level and people are falling in love with the new format.
So, I could give you a few basketball-related keys to the game against Efes, but the biggest key is desire. I don't think that this game is really going to come down to rules, matchups or any of that stuff. I know that whoever wins this game – and I know it sounds cliché – is going to come down to whoever wants it more. Whoever wants to win that game more than the other team will get it, I am telling you. Efes is solidified in the fourth spot, but as you can see, we are not solidified anywhere. We have to fight for every single possession in every single second of that game and see what happens after 40 minutes. And if it is more than 40 minutes, we shouldn't care. We have to do everything in our power to win that game. One of the key things to our team is how unpredictable we are and that makes us hard to prepare for. We have so many different weapons but also, we have so much talent as far as defensive and offensive capabilities. We can do so many different things to try to stop a run or make a run. Unpredictability really helps us if we are going to the playoffs.