It is good to be back in the EuroLeague Playoffs. Of course, I think this is where FC Barcelona belongs, and one of our main goals since the very beginning of the season was to reach the EuroLeague Playoffs. And we achieved it, which is a good thing. Thinking back, there were a couple of games that we should have won and if we did, would have finished fourth, maybe even third in the standings. That would have given us the home-court advantage in our playoffs series, but we cannot live in the past. We have to look ahead, look to the future. I think it was a pretty decent regular season on our part, other than this couple of losses we could have avoided, but it is what it is and we have to be really proud for making it to the playoffs after two years.
We are really, really excited about the playoffs, thinking about what will happen if we do this or that. Of course, Efes is going to be a tough opponent and were are 1-1 against them this season; we beat them at home and lost pretty badly at their place. We really have to prepare to play two very good games there. This is very important. Personally, I think that Game 1 is the most important one. Everyone will be maybe too excited, so we have to control our emotions and play a good game. It was pretty clear for a couple of weeks, even more, that we would play against Efes; the only question was who would have the home-court advantage. In the back of our heads, we were thinking about that, what we will do against them.
"There is not one team that will be alright with just being in the playoffs"
Our team is always in the situation of thinking about the next game, and the next challenge ahead. We have to keep doing well in the Spanish League because we are leading the standings and are playing a lot of road games from now on. We have to win all of them to try to stay first. We have been trying to think about Efes in the meantime, using the domestic games to prepare ourselves for them, thinking about their defense and offense, and at the same time, improve, get better and keep winning games, which is the most important things.
We know we are very competitive when we play good defense. I am not sure, but I checked the other day and saw we have the second-best defense in the EuroLeague, behind only Fenerbahce. That tells everything about how important defense is for us. Obviously, we have been pretty decent in a couple of stints during the season. We also had a couple of games, like the one against Efes at their place, in which we were not able to play our defense. From my own experience, when I went to the Final Four with Baskonia, we had a pretty good team and had a lot of weapons on offense, but what we did better was defense. We played really, really good defense and I think that was one of the keys that season. It is very important to play the kind of defense we want, to have individual responsibilities to make our team defense work, paying attention to small details. We are in a good situation and have a pretty good chance, but Efes will probably think the same. They have players with a lot of talent and character. It is going to be a pretty good challenge.
The playoffs are going to be really exciting this season. I would never make any predictions about who is going to win against whom, or how. It is kind of impossible! But that is the beauty of the EuroLeague -- you never know what is going to happen. There are so many surprises in the regular season, so many games that you expected a team to win or lose, and it was always the opposite result. The competition is great, and all eight teams in the EuroLeague playoffs, I am sure, think that they are going to go to the Final Four. There is not one team that will be alright with just being in the playoffs. All teams are going to prepare really well and are going to fight until the end.
"I would love to go back to the Final Four."
After the Copa del Rey in Spain, I went through a little rough patch, individually. I had some bad games, and we had a loss in my family. I lost my grandfather, who was actually like a father to me, and it was pretty bad for me, emotionally and individually. Since then, I was trying to climb back and had some good games in the last two weeks, but it is not even about me. The most important thing is that the team is getting in good shape. We are trying to find our way back and play our best basketball. We kept playing well after winning the Copa del Rey, getting two wins against Baskonia and Madrid. That was a good moment, and we are working on playing really well in the playoffs. Let's see. Hopefully, we can keep this up.
I would love to go back to the Final Four. I played it with Baskonia in 2016, and Barcelona has not been there since 2014. And it is in Vitoria, at Buesa Arena, where I played for three years! It would be so nice to play a Final Four in Vitoria! What can I say? We have to fight every day to be there. Playing the EuroLeague Final Four with Baskonia in Berlin was one of the best experiences of my career. It is a good thing, and I think our team deserves it, but I am sure there are seven other teams out there who believe the same. All we know is that we will give everything we have to try to take Barcelona to the Final Four!