As you know and remember, I am a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague rookie, and I can now say that this is a level above all the competitions where I previously played. I made my debut in Round 3, and that night was a mixed bag of feelings. We lost the game, and the team's success is above everything else, but the feeling during the game was just unbelievable. We played against a great club like Maccabi, on our home floor, and I made my first 2 three-point shot attempts as soon I entered. Entering a EuroLeague game for the first time really meant a lot to me, but unfortunately, we lost that game so you simply cannot be happy and satisfied.
We are now in the midst of a tough stretch of games, including yesterday's against Khimki and tomorrow's at home against CSKA. In December we have three of the next four on the road in the EuroLeague, and a few tough games in the Adriatic League, too. However, since we finally got our first EuroLeague win last week, and we've had a few wins in a row in the Adriatic League, including victories over our big rivals and EuroCup teams Mornar Bar and Partizan Belgrade, everything started feeling different. Fans are certainly happier, and even though we lost last night against Khimki, it is going to be little easier to play these games coming our way.
"Our performance against Baskonia was not by accident."
I have to admit that before our first EuroLeague win against Baskonia last week, there was a lot of pressure surrounding our team. Everybody was waiting for that first win. We had a bunch of home games, and from a psychological standpoint, after last season, when we finally won the Adriatic League title and qualified after such a long time for the EuroLeague, the next step was getting the first win.
Everybody was expecting it – and it kept getting away from us. Some of it was our inexperience. In some games, we were close and playing good basketball, but we were punished for every mistake that we made. And we had games where we led for three quarters – I would say games we had in our hands – only to lose in the end. You get a little insecure after such outcomes, and with EuroLeague and Adriatic League games coming one after another, you don't get a chance to recover. Before you know it, you are in the next city against another opponent who plays a totally different style of basketball, both offensively and defensively.
A few days before playing Baskonia, we had a road game at our big Montenegrin rival Mornar. That was the win that started turning things around. Then came Baskonia, and that was one unbelievable night.
In that game, we broke the EuroLeague record for three-pointers made with 21. That win, our first in the EuroLeague after 16 years, took a heavy burden off of us. We played great offensive basketball, but also solid defensively. I think everyone, players and fans, was enjoying that game and that first win.
We moved the ball so well that we always had an open teammate who would knock down his shot. That was not always happening in previous games, when we would miss open shots in the final stretch and opponents would then go and punish us.
To think that in one game we scored 63 points just by hitting triples is impressive. During the game, there was a feeling that your own shooting confidence is rising because your teammates are making shots. It is so much easier to play when players in different positions are in a good rhythm. At one moment in the game, we had all five players on the floor making shots. We were all hitting three-pointers, and that is hard to defend for any team. And it also raised our defensive level, too.
"It was only a matter of time until we started showcasing what we can do."
With help from our fans, we got to that win, and it will definitely be remembered. I remember when Barcelona tied the EuroLeague record with 19 triples and how everyone was talking about, so I am certain this game and this number, 21, will be talked about for a long time. The previous record for Buducnost in all competitions was 20 triples, which happened in the Yugoslav Cup finals in 1996, and now we have broken that record, too.
So, in many different aspects, that was just an excellent victory – but, honestly, it also could have arrived earlier. Our performance against Baskonia was not by accident. That goes way back to the preparation period. We have been practicing well, but not everything clicked right away when the season started. I felt that it was only a matter of time until we started showcasing what we can do and producing wins. It finally started happening, and it produced that game against Baskonia.
I think we will only become aware of our performance after a while, but I know that the significance of that victory will become bigger if we go on to win more games. We missed our first chance yesterday, against Khimki, but the next game is already coming tomorrow against the mighty CSKA.
Regardless, I believe that our performance will become a part of club history, but also a part of EuroLeague history, and I think it will take time for teams to break our record.