It all comes down to Game 5 – and we will play at home, in front of our fans. The game has been sold out for a few days and the atmosphere will be amazing. During the EuroLeague regular season, one of our goals was to make it to the playoffs. Well, not just make the playoffs, but also get home-court advantage because that would give us more belief that we could be one of the four teams fighting for the EuroLeague title in Vitoria. How important is the home-court advantage in Game 5 of a playoffs series? Everyone believes it is very important and we will see very soon how important it is. One thing is clear - knowing that 15,000 people will be supporting us in a sold-out environment will give us energy and enthusiasm. It will be the biggest game of the season so far, no doubt about it!
We played really well in Game 3 in the series to reclaim the home-court advantage. Between Games 2 and 3, we had a couple of meetings and analyzed our opponent, FC Barcelona, very well.
We were able to successfully carry over to Game 3 everything that we worked on in practice. We started playing tough, physical and hitting all the open shots we had. We were able to find open shots even though Barcelona used a variety of defenses against us - zone, switching man, full-court press. We went to Barcelona immediately after losing Game 2 at home, so we knew we had to get at least one win at Palau Blaugrana to at least bring the series back to Istanbul. I believe that by winning the first game at their place, we took a crucial step - mainly because it wouldn't have been easy to come back from a 1-2 deficit in Barcelona.
Game 4 was a completely different story. They went from doing everything wrong on defense to doing everything right. We knew that Game 4 would be totally different than the others and that it was not going to be as easy for us as Game 3 was. We knew that with their backs against the wall, they would come out and play as hard as they could to win since it was their last chance. So it went on that way; they were tougher and obviously played better than us and tied the series. I cannot say we were surprised by their reaction; we knew they would react, but they played well and beat us.
Shane Larkin has been a big part of our team. We all trust him and believe in him. His ability to score and create for others definitely makes our job easier. His presence on the court in Game 5 will be crucial for our team.
As a player who has been here for many years and lost a couple of Game 5s with Efes in the past, it is definitely a motivation to be in this situation again. But this time, Game 5 is at home. We did see the light at the end of the tunnel twice and were very close to making it before, but lost against Olympiacos twice. This time, having the home-court advantage will help us more and give us a better opportunity and we will try to make the most of it.
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