Winner on the wire of Unics Kazan in match 1 of the Eurocup final (89-87), AS Monaco is playing the return match in Russia this Friday evening (6 p.m.) before a possible victory on Sunday. A great architect of Monegasque success on Tuesday evening (17 pts, 5 rebounds), the French international pivot Mathias Lessort said he was impatient and ready for battle a few hours from a shock in a Russian room heated by an audience hostile to the men of Zvezdan Mitrovic.
Mathias Lessort, how do you feel after having traveled to the other side of the world with Monaco for the Eurocup return final in Kazan, 800 km east of Moscow?
It was a very long day of travel. We left at 4:30 am on Wednesday, just a few hours after the match, to arrive at 9:30 pm with two stops in Paris and Moscow. Getting up so early after a game is very tiring. We were able to sleep on the plane and rest well when we arrived. Some didn’t sleep between the match and the start, I didn’t want to sleep either, but I couldn’t (laughs).
With hindsight, how do you analyze this torn match 1?
As expected, it was a real fight. I saw it again, we made mistakes on a lot of things. It was a tough fight, we had to fight on a bunch of balls and we showed that we were determined as when we had four offensive rebounds in a row. We left too much freedom in Kazan, we mismanaged a few counter-attacks but we will find solutions for Game 2.
What has been the talk of the coach in recent hours?
He told us we had a good game but nothing was done. Before the meeting, he had already motivated us well, also at half-time when we were behind (42-44).
We have the impression that nothing can make this team doubt, that you have a foolproof mind …
And yet at one point, we faltered and the Russians swerved a little. There were a lot of misunderstandings on the ground, we had difficulty in the stops, we gave them too much space and they made runs. Afterwards, we are competitors, we weren’t going to give up in the final, we ended up meeting up.
After the match, Rob Gray (23 pts Tuesday) was back on the floor for a series of shots …
Everyone has their routine, Rob was not satisfied with his performance at the shoots and went back to work. It proves that we are not satisfied with victory alone. I also know that I have things to review after my game on Tuesday. My pick and roll defense was far from the best, I could also have done a lot better on rebounds (5 rebounds).
You were named in the 5 major of this Eurocup, is that a source of pride?
It’s always good to be in a 5, to be rewarded but the most important thing is to win this final, it’s even better to make history.
“Silencing a room is also a great feeling”
Match 2 in Kazan will be played with an audience. Do you see it as a destabilizing or motivating element?
It’s going to be exciting to hear fans, cheers and whistles, it’s going to add something more. We’re all professionals, we’ve all played big games and we know what it is. It’s true, we’ve been playing behind closed doors for a while, but we’ve had a few games with audiences this year in Moscow and Malaga. I played in Serbia and there, I experienced hot venues, it’s always special, in one way or another. Getting the crowd up at home when you score is fun, but silencing a hall is also a great feeling.
What will be the keys to defeating the Russians?
It will be necessary to defend in the same way on Jamar Smith (best scorer in Eurocup this season and limited to two points at Gaston-Médecin on Tuesday). We let their leader Jordan Theodore play too much, he had too much freedom, too many open passes. We will have to correct that.
And you suffered against Artem Klimenko (22 points on Tuesday when he was just over 2 points on average since the start of the competition) …
It would be a lie to say that we expected it, it’s true. It is 2.15m so under the basket it does not have much to do, it should have been left further from the basket.
Do you lack giants to face this player profile?
No, we never felt in difficulty because an opponent was too big. We played against teams that had players of this profile and against whom we had no problems.
How would you rank this success if you were to win this Friday?
So already, you have to win and I prefer to have it (the trophy) before talking too much, but it would be the biggest title that I would have won in my career.
More beautiful than the bronze medal obtained with the Blues in 2019?
It was a great moment, but you can’t compare a World Cup and a Eurocup, like you can’t compare a medal and a trophy. There is a difference.
For that, it will be necessary to avoid at all costs the match 3 …
Of course, we would like to reduce the series to two games, it will be difficult. It should be remembered that Kazan was led 1-0 in the half against Bologna (favorites of the competition) and did not have home advantage. They will give their all and will fight, that’s for sure.
Is this kind of meeting a good test before the Euroleague?
A test ? But the tests are over, we are on the final exam! We are going to be in a Euroleague level match, both physically and tactically. Next year is still a long way off and by then a lot of things will change, starting with the numbers… But that prepares us for it.