Hello everybody! It's been a while since my last blog, exactly two months, and a lot has happened, good and bad, since then. I will start with the good stuff and our win last week over the reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champions Real Madrid. We won some big games in the past when our three-point shots were falling, but this one was different; we made only 7 three-pointers. We played so well tactically. We played physical against a team that averages almost 90 points per game and is so deadly in transition. But we slowed them down with our strong defense.
To accomplish that took a big effort and and sticking precisely to our game plan and doing what we said we were going to do. That is why I think beating Real Madrid was our highest-quality win, and it certainly left the biggest impression on me for several reasons. And we had some great wins this season.
"Of our five EuroLeague wins, four are against teams that currently hold playoff positions."
Let me remind you: We first beat Baskonia by hitting a EuroLeague-record 21 three-pointers. Then we beat CSKA in a crazy, high-scoring game, when we also hit a bunch of three-pointers. We made everything and anything in that game, and every time we made a tough shot, CSKA would match it with an even tougher one. It was a high-scoring game and our marquee win for that first part of the season. We also defeated Barcelona this season, playing good defensively, and we beat Darussafaka on a late game-winner by Norris Cole.
But, Real Madrid we eventually held to 60 points. Did you know that Real Madrid did not score just 60 points in almost six years? We were everywhere on defense; we covered everything we wanted to cover. When you try to run with Madrid, you get beat by a lot, like they beat us earlier in the season, by more than 30 points. We cannot compete by running the floor against them or by matching their individual quality. But we prepared the game well, and Real Madrid is the reigning EuroLeague champion, which gave our triumph extra weight.
You could sense before the game it will be a special night. Our fans here loved watching Fenerbahce and CSKA and Barcelona, and our gym has been full for every game. But for the arrival of Real Madrid, people were asking for tickets 10 days in advance. It felt like the biggest game, plus we got out of our slump prior to it.
Podgorica has always been considered a tough road game for opponents, but I think that's now recognized in all of Europe, too, because of our five EuroLeague wins, four are against teams that currently hold playoff positions. I think Moraca Arena was full for every EuroLeague game, and in the Adriatic League we have a few thousand fans at every game. I know it is a cliché, but their support means a lot to us. Our fans wake up in the key moments, the whole gym gets on their feet, and then the team and individual players tend to do things above their usual abilities, which results with some major wins and huge comebacks.
We are all aware that we had one very bad period earlier this season, and I hope this all now means that it is officially behind us. In December, we strung together eight combined losses in a row in the EuroLeague and Adriatic League. I don't think that had ever happened in my career before, or to Buducnost as a club, for that matter. It brought in some insecurities, we lost some games against teams that are not better than us, and we took a step or two backwards during that period.
It is probably the reason changes happened, as we got a new coach Jasmin Repesa just before the New Year, replacing Coach Aleksandar Dzikic, whom we will all remember for leading us to historic achievements last season. Also, three new players arrived in Norris Cole, Goga Bitadze and James Bell, and they obviously brought extra quality.
"We are getting closer and closer to bringing home one road win."
Cole has experience, and he has become a motor of this team, pulling and pushing us. Goga, to be playing the way he is playing at this level against the opposition he is facing, and only being 19 years old, just tells you how far he can go in his career. The way he plays, his body movement, coordination with his height, it is like he is a guard. And Bell is getting better and more accustomed every game, and you feel he has the experience and quality we need. All three players make everyone else grow. I think we are only going to get more in synch over the next few games, but we have a long bench and everyone is important.
Next up is Gran Canaria, a tough opponent who led us by 22 points at halftime in our first game in the Canary Islands. In the second half we showed that we are capable of competing against them. They are a good athletic team and a good shooting team. It is important to prepare for them like we did for Real Madrid, and to give our best. Gran Canaria has six wins, one more than we do, but I feel we are currently charging forward, and I hope we will use our home court and our fans to win another game.
The one thing we still need to accomplish is to win on the road. If we had been just a little more focused in a few of our road games so far, we could have pulled out victories. We led by a lot in Munich against Bayern, also at the start of the season against Darussafaka, and we controlled the game for 35 minutes against Maccabi in Tel Aviv. But just a couple mistakes late in the game allowed Maccabi to pull away and get that win. It is not easy to play in Tel Aviv in front of their fans, but that performance gives us confidence we are getting closer and closer to bringing home one road win, and it would make me the happiest if it can happen as soon as possible.