Well, that was close! We arrived to Game 1 without Marcus Eriksson, who is a really important player for us, and knew Oriol Pauli would not be able to help us either. Pauli is close to getting back. Both players were among the pillars who helped us make it to the playoffs. We did a very good job and arrived in good spirits; our last loss was in the Copa del Rey semifinals and we have been playing really well since. We are all involved and ready to help the team, plus we play Game 2 at home, in front of our fans. A new fans' group was recently started for the Copa del Rey and I want to thank them for their constant support. We will try to turn the series around and start doing by winning Game 2.
We were close to winning the game; we led for almost 39 minutes, but lost the game. Playing at home will help us against Lokomotiv, the best defensive team in the competition. We played tough in the first half, which was very long with a lot of free throws. We knew they would raise their defensive level in the second half and needed to be ready to do the same. They made the most out of their defense and in the crucial moments, they were able to make some steals, run the floor and score. They were also really accurate from the foul line: Dimitry Kulagin hit 9 of 10 free throws, Mardy Collins 8 of 8. That was key down the stretch; we had the game under control until the last five minutes, which means that for at least 35 minutes, we did a good job to put ourselves in position to win the game.
We had a strong start, too. Sometimes you never know how things will turn out in a game. We hit our opening shots and that gave us a lot of confidence in the early going. It made us believe we could beat them on the road, in their court, in front of a good basketball atmosphere. Unlike other teams in Russia, a lot of people go to see Lokomotiv at home. They have good fans there. We were looking forward to this game, as it is the first of the most important ones in this competition. There is a lot at stake and that allowed us to be very competitive. Both teams had to adjust to their circumstances - in this game, playing without their top scorers - during the season. We travelled a lot during six games and played a lot of games to give ourselves the opportunity to challenge for big goals. We were close in Game 1, but now we know we are just as good as they are. Even though they are undefeated, we can still win the series.
If we go to Game 3, we will probably break a record for the most kilometers travelled in eight days. We knew that coming in, when we signed for Gran Canaria. When a EuroLeague or EuroCup Spanish team lands at home, we still have three more hours to go, plus the wait, usually in Barcelona and Madrid. We are used to that because we travel once at least every 15 days. They say people get tired coming to Gran Canaria, but nobody travels more than us and we have to overcome it. It cannot be an excuse because if it was, we wouldn't be able to compete. We have to be aware of that and keep working to reach our goals.
We had a charter flight from Madrid to Krasnodar and stopped in Brindisi for a quick refill. I have been watching Orange is the New Black, the Netflix series. I needed a series with a lot of seasons which was on Netflix, so I could download them on my iPad. I haven't finished Ray Donovan yet because there are a lot of seasons that are still outside Netflix, so I will see what I do about it. So far, I switched to Orange is the New Black.
Also, starting last week, I started college again. I will try to pass some subjects in June, so I have a lot of work ahead. I am studying Business Management at UOC - Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. I am 10 subjects away from getting my degree - little by little, I have been passing exams over the years and now, I have some subjects left, maybe the most difficult or the least appealing to me. I have to find time to study and pass those exams. My wish was to be an architect, but it was too hard to combine the college career and life as a basketball player. It was impossible to catch up, but I was able to study business management online. That will give me a degree when I finish playing; I want to keep studying and get my college degree, and once I stop playing, I will see how I use it.
So, on to Game 2! We have to shoot better in the paint and inside the arc; we had a 39% two-point shooting in Game 1. They are a tough team, very physical, Qvale and Elegar do an excellent job around the baskets; they are really solid players that do a lot of things right. We have to get Anzejs and Ondrej involved in the game, find easy baskets for them and help them play above the rim. The more dunks they get, the better for us. We missed a lot of close shots, which was very important for us to lose that game. It is over and we know what we did wrong. It is now a matter of correcting it and trying to win Game 2. Talking to some of my teammates, I believe we are the better team and had a chance to win there. They are undefeated, but not unbeatable, and we play at home. I think we can win, force Game 3 and play another do-or-die game in Krasnodar.
We have already played do-or-die games at home so far this season - in both the Spanish Supercup and the Copa del Rey. We know that it is to play a must-win game at home and the pressure that comes from that. We can use that experience as a small advantage in Game 2 and give ourselves the chance to tie the series and return to Russia. Making it to the semifinals would be a great reward after the season we had. Without any doubt, our fans will be by our side, and I have to thank them for their complete and unconditional support. Not all fans are like that! Things got even better after the Copa del Rey because of the supporters' group. They were probably in the arena, but not making noise together. They did it for us, because they believe in what we do and think they can help us that way. I am sure they will pack Gran Canaria Arena in Game 2 as our sixth man and help us be more aggressive and play with more energy. Vamos Granca!