|Kristi Toliver: "A primary goal was to win EuroCup Women, so I'm very happy with the opportunity to do that in this game against Kayseri"|
By Paul Nilsen
Kristi Toliver has insisted Dynamo Moscow are mentally prepared for the white-hot atmosphere of the 11,000 capacity Kadir Has Kongre ve Spor Merkezi when they face Kayseri Kaski spor on the second leg of the EuroCup Women Finals.
The Russian side claimed a precious 66-61 home advantage in the first game between the clubs last week and we will soon find out if it will be enough to take the 2013 title.
"The environment there will be crazy and in their favour, but we are an experienced team who can handle adversity," claimed the playmaker who has been one of the standout players in the competition this year.
"Obviously to come out with a win in game one is big - although I think that we could have played even better.
"Nevertheless, I feel good about heading to Turkey with a five-point lead.
"Defensively, we were tough and defended their guards well, so we will need to sustain that and especially with them shooting at their own rims during this 'second half' of the Final.
"We all believe in each other's abilities and trust we will leave it all on the floor.
"I'm expecting Kayseri to come out very aggressive on both ends of the floor, picking up their physicality and pressure," added the American.
The 26-year-old has enjoyed another impressive campaign, dishing up 4.7 assists per game - the second best in the tournament. This doesn't only bode well for Thursday night and the remainder of the season with Dynamo, but also for the WNBA summer.
The Los Angeles Sparks recognised the value of Toliver recently by handing her a multi-year deal, although the versatile backcourt star isn't resting on her laurels and still is intent on improving those parts of her game which need some polish.
"My season with Dynamo has been pretty good," agreed Toliver.
"I am healthy and my body isn't too banged up, which is a huge positive going into this summer.
"I'm still trying to work at keeping my turnovers down to a minimum and being decisive with play making.
"A primary goal was to win EuroCup Women, so I'm very happy with the opportunity to do that in this game against Kayseri."
On Thursday, Toliver has some serious business to take care of. Not least, trying to get the better of Spanish national team guard Nuria Martinez and helping to lock down the potentially devastating downtown shooting of Greek perimeter bomber Evanthia Maltsi.
|Asjha Jones was Kayseri's top scorer on the first leg of the Finals|
Form Guide: Dynamo Moscow have now won six straight and are 10-3 for the season. However, they have lost serious ground in the Russian League, going down again last weekend when they fell 93-86 in Orenburg against Nadezhda. This was their sixth defeat of the season and their third in four games. Kayseri Kaski spor are now 8-3 in EuroCup Women and they are in fifth place in the Turkish League with a crunch game at fourth-placed Tarsus Belediye to play this weekend.
The Hot Hands: Nobody truly stood out for Dynamo in game one from a shooting standpoint, although Crystal Langhorne had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Asjha Jones was the most productive of all players on show with an excellent 18 points for Kayseri.
‘X Factors': The five-point cushion may prove pretty handy for Dynamo Moscow because Kayseri have won every one of their five home games in the competition so far this season. And, in last year's Finals, they romped to success on the first leg at home to Dynamo Kursk - a feat they then repeated against the same team in the quarter-finals this year. Experience will be essential for Dynamo Moscow if they find themselves on the ropes. A confident start will be vital for the visitors if they want to take the wind out of the home team's sails and to try to silence the home fans. From a more technical view, Kayseri will look to pile ball pressure onto Toliver, because if Dynamo commit as many as 19 turnovers as they did in game one, or even more, it could be a long night. Perhaps above anything else, the perimeter defence of Dynamo is likely to define their prospects. Kayseri were a miserable 1-of-10 from outside in game one and yet were only narrowly beaten. It's tough to imagine they won't improve on this and that is a big warning sign for the visitors.