Peristeri prepare to put up a fight against 'title favorites' Hapoel
ATHENS (Greece) - In the eyes of many casual observers, Peristeri winmasters were the team that drew the shortest of short straws on Tuesday, when they were pitted against Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem in the Basketball Champions League Round of 16.
The Jerusalem team, who topped Group B on an 11-3 record, concluded the Regular Season averaging a league-high 89.6 points per game. Hapoel also have the highest offensive ratio and the highest effective field goal percentage in the competition as we head into the Play-Offs.
Η πρώτη αναμέτρηση @JerusalemBasket 🆚 #Peristeriwinmasters για τους 16 του @BasketballCL θα διεξαχθεί στο Ισραήλ την Τετάρτη 4 Μαρτίου στις 19:15 και ο επαναληπτικός μία εβδομάδα αργότερα και συγκεκριμένα την Τετάρτη 11 Μαρτίου στις 19:00 στο «Ανδρέας Παπανδρέου». pic.twitter.com/gh0pgn3qHJ— Peristeri B.C. (@peristeribc) February 20, 2020
Peristeri nonetheless were in philosophical mood in the wake of Tuesday's Play-Offs Draw, confident they can find chinks even in an armor as thick as Hapoel's.
"Hapoel are one of the favorites to conquer the title and they have the best offense in the competition. We have been handed a challenging mission, but every team has both strong and weak points," Peristeri head coach Nikos Papanikolopoulos told the Greek club's official website.
The 40-year-old tactician, who as a player had celebrated the Saporta Cup trophy conquest in 2000 with AEK, added that the level of level of competition in the BCL Round of 16 is so high, that there were no easy possible pairings anyway.
Will Hatcher says Peristeri will need to take away Hapoel's three-point shooting and win the battle on the glass
Peristeri veteran point guard Will Hatcher, one of the most experienced players in the competition, echoed his coach's fighting mood.
"Hapoel will be a very tough opponent. We all know they are a serious club and they have great quality as a team. However we can win the series, as long as we play to the best of our abilities. In a play-off series you always have the chance to make adjustments and changes. If we manage to take the series to the third game, anything can happen," Hatcher said.
"From the Hapoel games I've watched so far this year, I've seen that they are extremely dangerous from three-point range. It would give us a great advantage if we can limit their open looks from behind the arc and we control the rebounds so we don't let them score second-chance points," the 35-year-old playmaker added.
Peristeri have lost guard Isaiah Cousins (pictured) to injury but signed DeAndre Kane to bolster their backcourt
Hatcher, who earned a spot on the Star Lineup Second Team in the BCL's inaugural season, believes the brief break for the FIBA EuroBasket 2021 Qualifiers is just what the doctor ordered for Peristeri as they are undergoing some important roster modifications.
The Greek side have just signed DeAndre Kane and the former Maccabi Tel Aviv guard will need to step in for Isaiah Cousins, who underwent surgery and will be sidelined for about three months. The club based in the biggest western Athens suburb has also just parted ways with forward Brayon Blake.
"I think the break is important, especially for our team. We have been playing two games a week since October and the break gives us the chance to clear our mind, to regroup and to recharge our energy so that we finish the season in the best way possible," Hatcher said.
"It's also crucial that we have the time to incorporate DeAndre Kane to the team, so he can feel a part of the group both on and off the court. He is going to be a key player in the effort to be successful and we have a few days to help him find the role he needs to assume on the team."