It has been amazing for us to reach this point. We set high goals for ourselves at the beginning of the season and really came together as a team to get here. We had a good season with many ups and downs, but overall we played pretty solid; now the real competition begins! We have to give our best in every game during the playoffs. We are excited and want to get this done. It is going to be a great series. From the beginning of the season, we all believed that we were capable of winning every game that we played. Our mindset is all that matters from here on out. We are excited to get this series going.
During the season, we were never worried about the standings. I realize it sounds cliché, but we really did take one game at a time, all the way until the last game of the regular season. The season is really long and we just had to stay focused the entire time, no matter the ups and downs that took place.
For instance, we had ups and downs in our last regular season game against Olympiacos. It is important for this team to play aggressive and with energy, especially on defense, and we didn’t do a good job of this in the first half of that game. We fixed our mistakes at halftime and ended up coming out hard in the second half, forced overtime, and ultimately won the game. That game was a bit of a wake-up call for us. Going into playoffs, we will have to play well and stay extremely focused every game for 40 minutes if we want to make it to the Final Four and the championship game. Everyone in the locker room is aware of that, so we are going to prepare ourselves and continue to get better.
We will have the honor to play the first-ever EuroLeague Playoff game at Zalgirio Arena. The atmosphere at our recent home game against CSKA was great, but I think the playoffs are going to be even better! We are going to need that same energy from the crowd that we had in the game against CSKA to help us secure the win!
We will play against Olympiacos again in the playoffs. They are a great team and came in third place for a reason. They have a really deep, really tough roster on both offense and defense. For us, it is going to be important to play our best and take care of what we can control – staying extremely disciplined on defense, playing aggressive, fighting for every rebound, and following the game plan that our coaching staff gives to us. We have to learn from our mistakes in the last game against them and come out with an enormous amount of energy for the entire 40+ minutes. Just like the regular season, we will approach the series one game at a time. We are all really looking forward to this series; it is going to be great! We have confidence and we have to carry that forward into each game of this series.
I think everyone is very excited and you can kind of feel the energy in the community. This is what we played for all year long, a chance to get to the Final Four and fight to become the EuroLeague champions. Our preparation throughout the season has led us to this point. We are ready to lay it all on the line and fight for every possession, to put ourselves in the best position for success.