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Ioannis Papapetrou: The best time of the year!

Apr 12, 2017 by Ioannis Papapetrou, Olympiacos Piraeus Print
Ioannis Papapetrou: The best time of the year!

It was a great regular season for us. We got the home-court advantage in the playoffs and it was a good experience with the new format and everything. We did a good job and are happy until now, even when we still have a long way to go. It was fun and fair at the same time; everybody got what they deserved. You played against every team, home and away, so you cannot really hide your weaknesses. It is fair for the awards, too, because you have to play against everybody and compete against every team. I think the most impressive experience was playing on the road against Crvena Zvezda. It was great! I never had the chance to play at Kombank Arena before, because of injuries, and getting to play there was just as I expected it. Most of the teams nowadays have great arenas and it was great to play in all of them in one EuroLeague season.

We are feeling good before the playoffs. Like I said, we had a really good season until now. Well, we lost a couple of games in a row recently, but at the end of the day, we were third in the standings and are happy for this. Everybody knows that the biggest games start now and we have to be extra motivated and extra focused. It's true, we didn't want to relax and lose these games recently. We didn't play well and lost those them, but the timing is perfect to get back to our winning ways. Matt Lojeski is out right now and hopefully will be back soon, but everyone else is healthy and ready to go, which is a great thing and a blessing for us. We expect Matt to come back soon and have a full roster in the most important games for the year.

Of course, Billy (Vassilis Spanoulis) is ready to lead the team as always. He returned after this injury and is feeling better every day. I think he is ready now, but even if he isn't, he will be when the big games come because that is the kind of player he is! Billy is making sure we understand how big these games against Efes are and how big of a chance it is to go to the Final Four. He wants everyone to feel lucky and privileged to be in the playoffs and is telling all of us that you never know when you can make it again to the Final Four, so everybody must give his best to make the most out of this opportunity. Maybe we will never have another chance to be in the Final Four in our whole careers! We have to give more than 100% to be there.

Our club has been in many situations when it comes to the playoffs. A few years back, we beat Montepaschi Siena by like 50 points but then didn't make it to the Final Four. The following season, Siena was 1-0 against us and we made it. It shows that playoffs are a matter of consistency and been able to improve your game throughout the series. You never know if it will be a long or short series, but no matter if it is three, four or five games, you have to be consistent, do what you are doing well and be able to change your tactics depending on how your opponent responds.

The home-court advantage could be nothing, or it could be truly important depending on what you make of it. Of course, our fans are great, our arena is great and I expect these games to be sold out. All that is really good for us, but we cannot relax. We have to go in and play the way we play, show the basketball we know we can play and after that, everything will take care of itself. Like I said, it is good to have the home-court advantage because we fought for it all season long. Our fans always give their best in the playoffs because it is the last chance to see their team at home in a EuroLeague games this season. Everybody gives their best and is extra motivated and ready to play. We have to be aware that we worked for five months to get the home-court advantage and we cannot lose it now in one game. You have to start from scratch because nothing you did until now matters in this series. If you underestimate your opponent, you will be making a big mistake. We have to focus on Game 1 and win it at home, and only then think about Game 2.

Efes is a very athletic team and have players who can control their success, especially Thomas Heurtel, Jayson Granger and Derrick Brown. The ball is mostly shared between these three players on offense, their main decision-makers. Of course, we have to try to stop them and try to stop their transition game. Efes is a really effective team when it runs and plays in transition. They can make a run and score 10 or 15 points really quick. We cannot allow them to do that, so we need to be consistent on defense, like we have been all year. We also have many physical players and want to play that way. It is part of our basketball ID.

Obviously, there is more attention to the playoffs, more stress and more pressure. For us, it is the same, because we fight for every win like hell, as if it was the last game we will ever play. This is what we will do in every game of the series, try to give more than 100%. This is the best time of the year for us, the players, and I guess for everyone else, too. You have big games all over the place and most titles are decided in the next two months. All games matters, every game counts, a loss can hurt you and a win can bring you up. We are ready for the challenge and expect you, Olympiacos fans, to help us a lot. See you in the EuroLeague playoffs!