Not being able to play the last couple of games has been really hard for me. I am having a hard time watching Baskonia’s playoff games on TV. This is the greatest part of the season and not being able to offer a helping hand is eating me alive. Things like this happen and we are working hard, as much as possible, to see if I am able to play in Game 3.
I have had a lot of injuries related to my left foot this season: bursitis, tendinitis, and I already sprained my left ankle three times. On Friday before the playoffs, I was just practicing with the team and I stepped on Rodri [Beaubois]’s foot and that was it. I had a torn ligament in my left ankle and had to use crutches for a week. Still, I am trying to speed up the process to see if I can offer a helping hand in Game 3.
We are down 2-0 in our playoff series. If you want to beat the reigning EuroLeague champion, it is important that all of us are healthy and ready to contribute, because that can help us play a better game against them. It is never easy to play on the road in front of thousands of people, against the EuroLeague champion, and I think we paid a high price of our lack of experience in the first half of Game 1. We kind of respected them too much and were not aggressive. We improved in the second half, but came up short in the end. It was not enough to come back. Game 2 was completely different; we were aggressive, but made a couple of turnovers and missed some open shots in the most decisive moments, and a team like Fenerbahce always capitalizes on that.
What I have learned from best-of-five series is that a team can improve from game to game and slowly, but steadily, become strong enough to turn the situation around. We will have a plus in Game 3 because we will play at home and I think the team improved a lot in Game 2 and will keep going in that direction. We must have the same game plan that we had in Game 2 and make some adjustments to keep Fenerbahce from getting advantages in some situations. If we do it right, we will compete on Tuesday and take the series to Game 4. Jan Vesely hurt us a lot under the baskets with a lot of offensive rebounds. Every time we dominate the boards, we get a lot of fast break points, which we were not able to do much so far in this series. We have to look for those easy points and that is going to be one of the biggest keys for Game 3. We play very good five-on-five defense and switch in pick-and-roll situations.
We also want to bounce back from our regular season loss against them at home, which was one of our worst games this season. After facing each other in the 2016 Final Four, Baskonia beat Fenerbahce by 34 points last season and they came back ready to avenge that loss this season. It is a whole different story now and what we have to do is play the best game possible, without thinking of anything else. We have to make our fans happy and I truly believe that our team does not deserve to lose 3-0. We will keep fighting until the end and it will be difficult, but one of our main strengths as a team is that we never give up, and this is what we want to prove. Obviously, we have to go game by game and not think about what can happen next. Right now, our EuroLeague season goes down to our game on Tuesday and if we win it, then we will focus on Game 4 on Thursday.
Having to watch the games at home was not easy, but I stayed in touch with my teammates. We have a very active WhatsApp group and I tried to tell them what I saw from the outside. When you are playing, you don’t realize certain things in the game, so I tried to tell them what I saw and give some advice. The most important thing for me, however, is to get treatment and try to be back as soon as possible.
My teammate and good friend Janis Timma is playing better. He had elbow problems, but he is the kind of players who always steps up when things are tough. I hope he can keep playing well in Game 3 and bring character and intensity just as always, because that would help us win. I have a great relationship with Janis; we have known each other for many years and I consider him my brother. I am very happy to finally be able to play with him.
We have an extraordinary group of guys. Everyone gets along really well and that team chemistry is really, really hard to find. We want to show that our team is still alive in the competition, put the knife between our teeth and get out to battle in Game 3.
I expect Buesa Arena to be packed for Game 3 and I will tell you this: when our arena is full, it has nothing to envy from the most famous basketball atmospheres in Europe. I remember playing there as a visitor and finding out Baskonia has some of the best fans in Europe. I hope we can generate a great atmosphere in Game 3 and turn it into a great basketball party with a win. We will have the whole city behind us supporting the team. There is a basketball and a football team in Vitoria and Baskonia is more popular than Alaves. In fact, Baskonia is the biggest shareholder of Alaves!
One final message to all Baskonia fans! You know that Baskonia never, ever gives up. We will try to make you happy by winning Game 3 and – if possible – Game 4. That is the best way to thank you for your support, to be as competitive as we can be!