Hello, Turkish Airlines Euroleague fans all over the world!
We are almost halfway finished with Top 16 stage of this great Euroleague season and, speaking for those of us at Efes Pilsen, I can say that our most important game is the next one. That comes this Thursday on the road against Real Madrid, which has the same 2-0 record as we do in Group G, making ours the only group with undefeated co-leaders. That also makes this the only group where one team is guaranteed to be 3-0 going in the half-time break in this round.
Coming to this showdown, we have been practicing hard on our game for a while and we received the results of this hard work with those two Top 16 victories so far, against Montepaschi Siena and Partizan Belgrade. In my opinion, our first win against Siena at home was absolutely crucial for the remainder of the season. We had to win that if we were going to have leverage moving ahead in the round. It was a game of defensive runs and we survived the battle, winning by just 2 points, although Siena had a chance to win it on the last shot. Survived is a good word for it, but the win is what was most important, and we got it.
Our second Top 16 game against Partizan at Belgrade Arena last week was definitely an exciting one, too. Having seen the record-breaking attendance recorded at that arena in the past, I was wondering how the crowd would behave - especially after remembering the Turkey-Serbia match-up in the semifinals of the World Championships last fall, a victory we took from their national team in the very last seconds, on a layup by one of my Efes Pilsen teammates, Kerem Tunceri. I would like to tip my hat right now to the Partizan fans, who showed their love and excitement for the game of basketball all during last week's game, supporting their team until the end - and even their defeat. That was impressive to see. For us, I think we managed to get a very important win in a truly tough environment, thanks to great performances by Igor Rakocevic, our two Kerems - Gonlum and Tunceri - and Lawrence Roberts, who was playing in front of his old fans.
Having two victories under our belt at this point can be a comforting feeling, but we have much more work to do to reach the Playoffs. We are going to play Real Madrid back-to-back in our next two games and I am sure that both games are going to be huge battles until the last minute. Currently, of course, we are just focused on the game right in front of us, on Thursday in another great European city, Madrid. We hope to enjoy the result and I hope to reach you again in the near future with another post about more victories!
SINAN GULER - ISTANBUL
Tuesday, February 01, 2011