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Ioannis Papapetrou: One last fight

May 01, 2017 by Ioannis Papapetrou, Olympiacos Piraeus Print
 Ioannis Papapetrou: One last fight

Game 5 is coming to our arena on Tuesday, and that's a great thing for us. It's great that we gave ourselves a chance to play the last game on our home court and in front of our fans. We will give everything we have in one last fight to get to the Final Four.

Of course, to do that, we had to come back strong in Game 4 after losing two in a row to Efes, and we had to survive our first do-or-die game, on the road in Istanbul. I think we played tough the second half. That's how I would want to describe it: tough. And something else I think is that our bench and the players who were in the game at any time were really connected. We played as one team. I think we made some great defensive stops and on offense we played very well moving the ball. Overall, we were very aggressive. Vassilis Spanoulis, of course, was at the center of everything. I think everybody counts on him and everyone knows what he can do. But the most important thing is that it was a team win and that's how we like to win, as a team.

Game 3 had been frustrating. We weren't aggressive. We didn't come into the game knowing the opportunity we had in front of us. We were kind of like not ready mentally to play that game. Efes had a big lead and then late in the game we started playing tougher and we realized that we had to show a better side of ourselves. Spanoulis hit big threes, we all contributed defensively, but then we just ran out of time, I think.

During the day or two in between Game 3 and Game 4, we talked about aggressiveness. We had to be more aggressive, offensively and defensively. We had to want it more, not just talk about it, but show it on the court. And also to support each other and play more as a team. So I think that was the main focus. Tactically, we changed some stuff. We changed our defense on some players. We switched up our pick-and-roll defense a little bit in certain situations. I think this confused Efes a little in Game 4.

So it's great to be going to Game 5. As the series gets longer, it makes the team tougher. It makes the players tougher, too, and better prepared. So I think that for us players, it's good to be in this series til the end and prove what we are made of. It's a big game and a game that will give you a ticket to the Final Four. I think everyone wants to play in those games. This is already a Final Four game for both teams. And we approached Game 4 as a Final Four game, too. We knew it could be our last game in EuroLeague. So we approached it that way, and that's how we'll approach every game from now on. Every game from now for us – whether it's Game 5, the EuroLeague semifinal or the final – is like this: if you lose, you go home. So every game from now on is a Final Four game.

Of course, the other three series have finished already. I think Baskonia gave a big fight to CSKA all three games. They didn't manage to win, but it wasn't easy for CSKA to take the series. Fenerbahce came to Athens and they won two times in OAKA. They showed their mettle. They showed how tough they are and how much quality they have as a team. Real lost on their home court and then went and won two games away, a big comeback for them after losing at home. That's how EuroLeague is. There's no easy series. Every team can go and win away. Every team can win at home. The teams really show character.

Honestly, I am very comfortable in a five-game series, playing the same team again and again. You learn to adjust. You learn what the other team does well. You don't get surprised. You are better prepared. You already know what they are going to do. You've already seen them and played them. And you played them recently, so you don't forget. So I think the adjustments that you have to make is the most crucial part of this. You always have to change and put things into the game that you practice. You cannot put things in the game that you don't practice. You cannot try to change things and be somebody else. You have to be your own team and do what you do well.

So it all comes down to Tuesday. We fought hard all during the regular season to take a spot with home-court advantage. We lost one game at home in the playoffs, but we went on the road and took it back, basically. So now we get the benefit of the work we did all season long. Tomorrow is a big chance for us to play in front of our home fans and a big chance to go to the Final Four.

Our fans are great for us, and it's a big difference to play at home. The fans support us, and when they are behind us we have a really great atmosphere that gives an extra push to the team. Of course, everyone is looking for tickets, everyone wants to be part of this Game 5. It's crazy, I think Billy gets more requests than anyone, but it's crazy. This is what it's all about. It's win or go home. Definitely, we will give everything. That, I can promise.