Hello again! We're coming off a successful double-round week in which we managed to beat Zalgiris in Kaunas and Khimki at home. The main key to winning these two games was always staying together. In our first game against Khimki earlier this season, we had a lot of ups and downs down the stretch. We never gave up throughout the game and won it on a buzzer-beating three-pointer. The second game against them was a little different since Khimki was coming with a lot of confidence after beating Fenerbahce at home. Despite their full confidence coming into our game, we controlled the pace the whole time. Playing in front of our own crowd also gave us extra energy and more power in crucial times, especially at the beginning of the third quarter.
Before that, we played in Zalgirio Arena and got the win. I have to admit that Zalgirio Arena and Zalgiris fans are some of the best in Europe, by far. As a player, it is an honor to play in front of a good crowd who loves basketball. I can easily tell that they have created a tremendous basketball culture in Lithuania. In the last 40 seconds of the game we were up by 20 points or so and they were still supporting their team. I have never witnessed this before anywhere. As for the game itself, I believe that we had our best defensive effort against them. We were really focused and determined. Each player who stepped on the court made an impact on the game with a great contribution. It was an important road win for us. They had beaten us at home in the first game, but we got revenge.
"It's an honor for me to be a captain of our team and to represent this jersey in the biggest basketball competition in Europe."
Vasilije Micic is one of our key players. He has helped us win many games, and he played really well against Khimki. Despite his young age (he turned 25 this week), he has great experience competing in many different countries and leagues. His hard work definitely pays off on the court. His ability to run the team, his basketball IQ and his scoring capacity have been helping us all season long. He is also a very strong and big guard compared to others. I know this for a fact because I have to guard him in each practice, and that's not an easy task! He is a great guy off the court as well, a family-oriented guy. He is the guy who cares about his family so much and tries to be there when they need him. I like that about him. He is also very vocal in the locker room, helps his teammates and mostly our younger guys to make them better.
As you can imagine, we have been traveling a lot lately. With some many trips, you have to entertain yourself somehow. I have been watching a couple of TV shows lately. Just finished watching Ballers and Dogs of Berlin. I am currently watching Ozark. Then in pre-game warmups, I try to listen to some music. I feel like it helps me to get focused and gives me a boost. Some of my teammates play Nintendo during the flights or in the hotel. I am not one of them, but it's always fun to watch them going against each other. Watching from outside as a spectator, it is clear that Rodrigue Beaubois is the master of this game. I have rarely seen him lose. Rodrigue is great; he always has this smile, but it is really hard to judge him by his facial expression. Even on the court, his expressions don't really express his feelings! It is hard to tell if he is angry at you or if he is smiling because he is happy. Long story short, it is always very nice to be around him, on and off the court.
We will play against Darussafaka this week. Both teams know each other well, of course, but in the EuroLeague, any game could be a problem. Their overall record doesn't really show how good they can be sometimes. I remember them losing many close games this season. We will play at home again in front of our fans. We have to take care of our business and take the game against Darussafaka very seriously if we want to continue to be a contender for one of the top four spots in the standings. After that, we will visit Madrid and Panathinaikos. Both of those games will be very tough and may determine where we stand as a team. Facu Campazzo of Madrid and Lukas Lekavicius of Panathinaikos are very quick and smart players who are hard to guard. Their basketball IQ is high. As a defender, you have to read their minds and guess their next moves in order to stop them.
"We will carry on fighting for each and every ball, and try to win as many as games we can."
This is my eighth year with Efes. It's an honor for me to be a captain of our team and to represent this jersey in the biggest basketball competition in Europe. I am glad to see Petar Naumoski in the stands often. A lot of people will recall how successful and legendary Naumoski was for "Efes Pilsen" back in the day. He was the one who made people love the sport of basketball and Efes Pilsen in Turkey. Eight years ago, when I first signed with Efes, I was aware of this and somehow wanted to bring this love and culture back to Anadolu Efes. I feel like I have a lot of responsibility as a captain and as a player of Anadolu Efes, and our fans need to see us in the Final Four to recall memories of those Efes Pilsen squads in the mid-1990s and the early-2000s.
Last but definitely not least, I would like to thank Dusko Savanovic for naming me as the defender he would choose if he needed one stop to win a game in this week's Round Table on EuroLeague.net. I am still in touch with Dusko. I know he is enjoying his retirement now. It was always fun being on the same team with Dusko. One of the most intellectual and clever guys that I had in Efes. He looks like a normal person at first sight... but believe me, he is very, very special once you get to know him. I just want to thank Dusko for being loyal to his own emotions and picking me over the many great defensive players in Europe.
Finally, I would like to send a message to Efes fans before the game against Darussafaka. I am sure that the more games we win, the more fans we will have at our games. We will carry on fighting for each and every ball, and try to win as many as games we can. The fans make our job easier by supporting us at the arena. As players, we never like playing in empty arenas, so please come and support us for each game. We will not disappoint you. Thanks!