Hello again, Eurocup fans! My team has already made it to the Eurocup Quarterfinals and is still fighting for first place in our Last 16 group. We lost one game against Donetsk, which may prevent us from winning the group. It was unfortunate because I couldn't be a part of that game. I missed three games because of an ankle injury and that was one of them, an important game. I still think we are in a good situation and have a very important game coming up on the road against Asvel, which we must win. We will figure out what happens, especially since Donetsk plays against Aris in Greece and that won't be easy for them either.
Donetsk is a very good team. They are very well coached and play hard as a team. Something that kind of surprises me in the Eurocup this season is that the competition is lacking intensity, not all the teams are aggressive. You watch a Euroleague game and guys are really aggressive on defense — it is do or die in every possession and that is how Donetsk plays. We struggle against teams that play against us that way all 40 minutes. Still, we managed to beat them at home, but lost in Ukraine by a lot of points. We have had some ups and downs since the holiday break. We started the season with just one loss in the opening 19-20 games. The road game against Donetsk came in a bad time for us, we didn't play well even in the game we won against them. It was a matter of timing — we were in one of our worst shapes and they took advantage of it. It is the only reason I can find for the score difference.
I didn't travel to that game and the game was not on TV, so all I could do was follow it through the Eurocup website's play by play. I was also sending text messages back and forth, especially with our trainer. "What's going on?", "we are down 15!" and stuff like that. It is hard because I am a big part of the team and it was a stupid injury, a rolled ankle, which kept me away from the game. I think I could have helped my team and it is difficult to sit out and see your team lose that way. We are definitely a much better team than we showed that night.
You can lose one game and it kind of makes everything you have done until that point almost meaningless. We were undefeated the whole way through, lost that one game and we may finish second. You can try to see it in a positive way — maybe we were too relaxed, thinking that we would win the Eurocup just like that. I would rather have a loss early on than having it when it matter most. It has kind of been a wake-up call for us. We gathered, came together, had a couple of meetings and decided that the goal is to get to the Eurocup Finals so that we can take advantage of our home court. I really think we are back on track now!
Actually, one thing we know is that we will face a tough opponent in the Quarterfinals. Benetton, Lokomotiv Kuban or Lietuvos Rytas — we don't really care who will play against, all three will difficult. One thing is for sure, it doesn't matter how we are playing, we have to be ourselves. When we lose, it is normally due to our own mistakes. Khimki is focused on playing together and playing good basketball for all 40 minutes. I think we have the best team in the competition, even though some people could disagree with that. We have to approach the games well and stay together, especially in difficult moments, to be as prepared as we can be.
One bad game or even some bad minutes can cost any team the chance to go to the Eurocup Finals. You gotta be focused and prepared and I would say that experience matters more than ever in situations like this — one-game or two-game series. We have a lot of experienced players and I rely on that to get to the Finals. We understand that some bad minutes can put you outside of the competition. We have a very experienced point guard in Zoran Planinic, who has played in the Euroleague for many years. Matt Nielsen and I have won the Eurocup in the past and guys like Sergey Monya and Vitaly Fridzon had big roles with Russia at the EuroBasket. We have the team and even though we may not have the home-court advantage, our experience could be much more important than that. I like our odds, the team we have, and the pressure we put on ourselves. Hopefully we will win our series and finish it up on our home court.
Our Quarterfinals home game will be the last one before the Eurocup Finals. We had a great fan showing at home so far this season — even last year. Some fans even made the trips to our away games. Every fan that comes to the arena is definitely going to help us. We play for the fans — that's what we do, we like to entertain and feed off their energy. Nobody — fans, players, coaches — thinks that Khimki is going to walk on the court and teams are going to give us the win. We are going to need all the support we can. So, Khimki fans, please keep coming to support us so we can make it to the Eurocup Finals together!