We needed a win in Athens and we got it. We played two very, very difficult games because Panathinaikos is a great team with incredible fans that can mentally take you out of the game like they did in Game 1. We weren’t ready enough for this game. It was hard for us to get into the game and it got out of our hands really quickly. On the other hand, we were very focused at the start of Game 2; we knew what was going to happen. We played smart and managed to get the road win we needed to come back home with better chances to advance. Being down 2-0 would have made things really hard for us, but things look better at 1-1. We have to try to finish the series at home.
Sometimes a strong atmosphere has a bigger impact on the home team. Most players in Real Madrid have a lot of experience and will not be affected by a strong atmosphere when playing on the road. But having so many fans pushing your team is a big plus for any team in every action they make. Like I said, our most-experienced players are usually not affected by such a great basketball atmosphere and they proved it in Game 2. Felipe Reyes had an unbelievable game. At age 38, it is not easy to do what he did, bring us back into the game and help us win it. Jaycee, Gustavo, Rudy… they all played great. We made fewer mistakes than in Game 1, followed our game plan and our veteran players made the difference down the stretch.
Felipe is very important for our team. After Game 1, in which he didn’t play a lot of minutes, you could tell he was a bit frustrated. He called a little meeting and did what a good team captain does; he made us talk to each other to be able to find out what our problems were. Everybody took a step forward and that helped us win the game.
We are not even halfway through the series, so we cannot relax right now. We have to get ready for Game 3 and focus on that. We know that they think they played a bad game and by playing well, they can beat us again. We know we can beat them if we do things right. It could be the most-balanced series in the EuroLeague Playoffs this season, along with Olympiacos vs. Zalgiris, which is very interesting, too. I believe that both teams can win the series, but neither will have it easy. The team that prepares the game better and follows its game plan will win the series.
We rebounded much better in Game 2 and that will be one of the keys. In Game 1, Panathinaikos killed us in every aspect of the game, but especially on defense, switching on all screens, direct and indirect. We didn’t have enough patience to look for our big men, who have a size advantage. This is what we improved in Game 2 and did that very well. When we missed shots, our big guys were in the paint, ready to rebound.
There was not a lot of time to change many things between Games 1 and 2. Besides, all the players know each other already, so there is no need for an in-depth player-by-player scouting in between games. You make tactical changes and your coaching staff has the key to that. That is another battle between coaches: bringing out new tactical details that can make the difference. There are more days between Games 2 and 3, so maybe there is time for bigger changes.
This is my first season with Real Madrid and everyone is telling me that the atmosphere at our arena will be great. We play Game 3 on Wednesday and that same day, right after our game, our football team plays a UEFA Champions League semifinals game against FC Bayern Munich in Germany. Even though we will play earlier than usual, people will be there to support us. I haven’t been to Madrid since we came back from Athens; I just went to practice and went back home, as I was tired. We have to focus on what’s important. It is a great moment to be part of this team, and what I looked for when I joined Real Madrid. I came here because I want to fight for every title and once you join this club, you know you have this opportunity if everything goes right. We had to fight hard to make it to the playoffs, but Madrid it is a team that fights for every title. We made it to the Copa del Rey final and lead the Liga Endesa regular season. It is an interesting experience and a great opportunity for me.
Madrid fans, see you at El Palacio! I have seen pictures and watched games in which everyone was dressed in white, helping the team, and that is what I expect to see in Games 3 and 4! We need you to go to the Final Four, so see you there!