After a successful baptism against Saint-Quentin already a month ago (87-65), Paris Basketball wants to mark the occasion with the reception of Badalone during this Eurocup quarter-final. Thursday evening (8:45 p.m.) the Parisians have the opportunity to go a little further into the history of French basketball, but they can also go by the wayside very quickly. A setback at this stage of the competition would be a failure for the capital club after such a high-profile regular season.

From the start of the year, we felt that something had changed in this Parisian team. With an almost complete change in the squad and staff, it was with well-defined ambitions that Paris presented itself on the European scene. To begin its continental season a few weeks after that in the championship, Paris played easily against Vilnius (105-78) and will only experience one small defeat in 18 matches in this phase of the regular season. Even if the attack impresses (99.3 points on average), it is on the other side of the field that the real change has taken place in the capital.

On the floor of the Halles Georges Carpentier or at One Ball, their training center in Noisy-le-Grand, the Parisian players spent hours working on their defense. Arriving from Bonn, where he had just won the Champions League, Tuomas Iisalo not only brought back his star players (TJ Shorts, Colin Malcom, Tyson Ward, etc.), he also took his assistants with him in his suitcases. The goal for the Finnish coach was to stick to the coaching philosophy he has always had: a very aggressive game with a great burst of energy. This is the case on both sides of the field with players who accept their role, sometimes not playing a lot, but who do not hesitate to give everything as soon as they step on the floor. It is not uncommon to see the Parisian tactician open his bench in the first 3 minutes of matches.

This year, with the help of his assistants, the 41-year-old coach would have planned a very large number of defensive systems in order to be able to adapt to all the situations of their opponents. “He will challenge you every day in training, push you to your limits and prepare you for all the situations you might encounter in a match, so that you are never surprised or in difficulty. This is his approach. Continuously test yourself to allow you to adapt and express yourself in all match situations,” TJ Shorts admitted to BeBasket.

This new dynamic instilled in the capital has brought the club to a first step in European basketball. By finishing 1st in their group (17 wins, 1 loss), the Parisians did not have to go through the round of 16 box and thus benefited from a significant rest after the Leaders Cup and the departure for the selection of several frames. But the road that seemed all mapped out could well be strewn with pitfalls. The players residing at the Adidas Arena saw Badalone dispose of the German club Ulm in the round of 16 (88-79), where the former Parisian titi Pacôme Dadiet plays.

Even though, earlier in the season, the two teams already faced each other and the Parisians won each time, the matches were very competitive. The first in Spain took place in a particularly tense context following racist insults from the public against the Parisian players at the end of the match, but even away from home, they did not tremble (101-94). On the way back, the players now housed at Porte de la Chapelle had difficulty creating a real gap. As is often the case at the end of tense matches, it was thanks to the left paw of Nadir Hifi that the gap widened (89-82).

After these two clashes, this quarter-final has everything of a trap according to Tuomas Iisalo. “Concretely, we couldn’t come across a tougher opponent. But we can also say that to win the competition, we need to beat three big teams and that the order in which we face them doesn’t matter. We are two contenders for the title and I don’t think there is a favorite,” the Finn told BeBasket last week. The Spaniards remain in fact on 6 successes in 7 championship matches including one against Baskonia, currently 8th in the Euroleague.

To get rid of their opponents, the Parisians intend to rely on their strong points: fast play and external skill. Nadir Hifi and TJ Shorts are the two men who make up the back line and therefore must carry the whole team. Hifi is experiencing its first season on the European scene and is fully assuming its responsibilities. With a stats line that is always full (16.9 points, 2.6 assists), the French international (21 years old) has the role of bringing energy off the bench with aggressive defense and shots that raise an entire team. room. For his part, TJ Shorts leads the team like the experienced player he is (26 years old). More in creating for others and in distribution, the American-Macedonian never forgets where the basket is (17.3 points, 7.6 assists) and his small size (1m75) poses no problem for him in defense (1.8 interceptions ).

Undefeated for 10 matches in all competitions, the capital’s players arrive with full confidence for the most important match of their season. First European test with a decisive match in their new venue which is almost sold out, these are the European Cup evenings that are the stuff of dreams.