I am getting back to you, EuroCup fans, right after Game 1 of the semifinals. When you put yourself down by such a big margin in the first half, like we did against ALBA, fighting back is great, but you have such a deficit to make smaller and it is difficult. We were down so much that we used all of our energy to come back, but we didn't have enough to go over the hump. We are focusing on playing Game 2 the way we played in the second half of Game 1, but throughout the whole game this time. ALBA hit tough shots in the first half and at the same time, we didn't give them the fight that we wanted to give them. Our idea was to make it a dogfight, all game long, and we didn't do that. We allowed them to get their rhythm going and get easy shots. We were not hitting them, and didn't contest shots that we needed to on their drives. Our game plan looking forward is we are definitely going to try to make it like a dogfight, like it was in the second half of Game 1.
During halftime in Berlin, we just talked to each other and said this is the EuroCup Semifinals. We couldn't come out in the second half and play like we did before. It is not that we overlooked our challenges going into the game, but I don't think we were as focused as we needed to be. Once we had that pep talk in the locker room, we said we were going to band together, and I think we all got on the same page and played our type of basketball.
"We want to give ourselves a chance to go back to Berlin and win there"
The good thing is that Game 2 at home, where we have been undefeated for the whole EuroCup season. Being at home has done great things for us. We don't want to think that we'll get an automatic win playing at home, but it gives us confidence knowing that we play our best basketball in front of our fans. We have to think about what we did against ASVEL in the quarterfinals. They beat us in a tough game at their spot, we came back home and then handled business in Game 3 on the road. Hopefully, we can do the same against ALBA. We want to give ourselves a chance to go back to Berlin and win there.
Our arena is like a second home to us. Half of the team lives literally across the street, and I am maybe not even a five-minute drive from it when there are no cars on the road. Now, it is good to be back because we have been away for over a week. Playing in our gym is going to give us a lot of energy. The arena is always available for us to shoot and our coach encourages us to go there and get some shots up. This is why we feel so comfortable at home; a lot of guys put a lot of extra shots up there.
So, it is time to play Game 2. We have more information now. You can watch a lot of film, but nothing helps you more than actually having played against a team some days before the game. We still have to watch a lot of film to see our mistakes and deficiencies. After playing against them in Game 1, we really just have to get to them and make sure this is not a scoring match. They have a lot of talented players and guys who can put the ball in the rim, but we have to grind it out. If you make the game like a boxing match instead of a fancy game in which both teams try to outscore each other, we will be good. I know we are one of the best offensive teams in the competition, but at home, we play a lot more greedy than we do on the road. That is the kind of attitude we need at home. We cannot try to outscore them. What we have to do is go back to what we know we can do, run our stuff, stop them on the defensive end, and, hopefully, we will have success.
There are three Canadians in the semifinals! Aaron Doornekamp is with Valencia, and like I said in my previous blog, Melvin Ejim is with UNICS. It is exciting! There are a lot of Canadians at the NBA level, but also at the top European level. I have been watching Valencia, and I am glad that Doornekamp is doing well. Being a friend, I have been following Melvin throughout his career and I am in my second professional year in Europe, trying to be successful. I think that a lot more Canadians are realizing that not all the accolades and the success come from guys playing in the NBA: a lot of Canadians are coming overseas and finding success as well. My brother Tyler is with Fenerbahce but got injured. I talked to him last night; he is still rehabbing and getting better. He is doing great with his rehab and obviously, he doesn't want to rush back because it is a tough injury and Fener is doing a great job at communicating with him. He is excited and pumped to get back on the court, especially in a Fener jersey.
"It is playoffs basketball, you cannot get too high or too low"
Going back to Game 2, it is important to move on. We can take mental notes to avoid doing what we did wrong in Berlin but at the same time, this is the playoffs and you have to erase that memory. I am not comparing ourselves to the Cleveland Cavaliers a few years back, but they were down to Golden St 3-1 and won the finals, because they forgot about their losses. Last season, Real Madrid lost Game 1 of its playoffs against Panathinaikos by a lot of points and won the series, too. All we have to do is to forget about this one, change a few things and play the next one with a fresh, clear mind. You never know! It is playoffs basketball, you cannot get too high or too low. You have to stay focused and play as a team. The better team, the one who does the little things well, will win.
Like I said, we were in this same situation against ASVEL, down 1-0 with Game 2 at home. That helps, of course, because ASVEL was also a tough team. We didn't get down or anything like that, and we have to fight back at home. We cannot look to Game 3 in the sense of what we will do if we go back to Berlin. We have to deal with Game 2. This is what we did last time, and got it done – we advanced. Hopefully, we can repeat history!