In just his second Euroleague season and first in five years, Victor Claver of Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar is set for his first Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four. Of course Claver brings much international success with him to Berlin; he won the 2010 Eurocup with Valencia Basket and five medals at major tournaments with the Spanish national, including three EuroBasket gold medals. Now he aims to add the Euroleague crown to his lot.
I guess it is time to talk a bit about CSKA Moscow. We played against them twice this season and beat them in Moscow. We also lost at home early in the season, but we were not the team we are right now. The second game was better; we were really solid, especially on offense, and managed to beat them on the road, which is always very difficult when it comes to CSKA. We know we can beat them again and that is very important. They built a team designed to win the Euroleague and have been in the Final Four pretty much every year since most people can remember. On the other hand, we achieved all the goals we had this season and the pressure is on them, not on us. We have nothing to lose and are looking forward to playing a very good game against them.
They have a lot of players who have been in many Final Fours and have that experience. As for us, only Draper and Voronov have been in the Final Four before. That may work in CSKA's favor. Yes, they have not won in a while, but have been there and know what it takes. Khryapa is in his 10th Final Four! In a single-game, a do-or-die situation like the Final Four, it is important to have experience. It is not the most important thing, but it counts. Khryapa and Vorontsevich are very good power forwards. They don't make many mistakes and always help the team. It is hard to guard players like them because they can do something positive at any time. They are not great scorers; that is not their role in the team. It's De Colo and Teodosic who usually score big in this team, but they can hurt you with rebounds, assists, steals and defense.
I am also looking forward to seeing what happens in the other semifinal: Fenerbahce against Laboral Kutxa. It is a similar game to ours. Fenerbahce has been dominating all season as one of the favorites, and Baskonia surprised everyone with a great season. It is true that Baskonia played well all season, but not a lot of people really counted them to go to the Final Four - just like us! It could be a similar situation, but maybe it will be a very different game. You never know! I know Alberto Corbacho; he practiced with the Spanish national team a few summers ago. Toko Shengelia was in Valencia when he was a junior and, in fact, we won the Eurocup together in 2010. He didn't play in the Finals, but was with us as a member of the roster. I just hope Toko and all their injured players can be available in the Final Four. We all fought hard all season and deserve to be there. No-one should miss a Final Four game due to injury.
Obviously, we are fully focused on CSKA. We see it as a final. We already played against Fenerbahce twice this season, so if we play against them, we know them already. The only team we have not played against is Baskonia, so we would need a quick analysis against them. Still, all we care about right now is the game against CSKA. What we know about Baskonia is that they run a lot, have a big reference in Bourousis and very quick point guards... but everyone who follows the Euroleague knows that.
We may not have the experience, but Coach Bartzokas has won the competition and knows what it takes to beat CSKA in the Final Four. Obviously, you cannot prepare for a Final Four in a couple of days. We have to come with some positive momentum and start doing the things we want to do in Berlin. We have to play well, at a good rhythm, to play at a high level. I have played a lot of do-or-die games, especially with my national team. The great thing about them is that you have to give your very best, your maximum, which makes you into a better player. Luck is always a factor, but you have to give everything you can to have a good game and win.
Of course, my family is coming to Berlin and a couple of friends from Valencia, very close friends. They always come to see me every time they can, and the Final Four is not going to be an exception! They will be there to support me at such a special event - and if we win, it would be historic and no-one would want to miss that! Again, all we care about is the game against CSKA. We all know that Teodosic and De Colo are their key players and we must stop their main creators – Aaron Jackson too, especially in pick-and-roll situations.
We will have a good number of Lokomotiv fans with us, which is great. I cannot wait to see you all in Berlin! Let's fight together! #LokoBerlin