We dug ourselves a hole. After winning Game 2 in Madrid, we were excited to host Game 3 at our place. But we fell behind early. We were down 18 and the energy to come back makes it difficult to come back and win the game against a great team like Real Madrid. At home we can’t dig ourselves a hole by going down 18. That’s too much. We got close, but we ran out of gas and didn’t have enough time on the clock.
Game 4 is coming right up on Friday. We need to start the game like underdogs and fight a bit more. I think we started off thinking with that win we got in Madrid that we could just go out there and play. We have to go out there and pretend that our back is against the wall and we’re down 0-2 in the series. We have to start that way and end that way and not have bad thoughts.
We know we can do it because that’s what happened in the first two games. After losing the opener, we knew we had to cut down our turnovers and win the battle on rebounds in Game 2. We made a few adjustments on defense and it paid off. Towards the end of the game, in the fourth quarter, we really locked down on defense, made some really nice tough shots. It was a back-and-forth battle and we were fortunate enough to come away with a victory – a very close one, but we had to put ourselves in a situation to win late in the game, and that is what we did. We know Sergio Llull is a great player who can make tough shots. That is something we always have to pay attention to, but we tried to make it hard on him, always have people around him and forcing him to take difficult shots that we think it is good for us. He might make some, because this is what he does, but he also misses some. We just tried to put bodies around him.
Sergio made a lot of those shots in the third quarter and we were down by 2 at the end of it. We got some good one-on-one plays and passed the ball around smoothly. We just continued to be consistent, to be in the game. In Game 1, we had a turnover here and there in crucial moments and that really hurt us and broke our momentum. In Game 2, we didn't have those turnovers in crucial moments and that was one of the keys for us.
For me, it was great to be back in Madrid. I marked this game down already last year! We were not able to play them last season and I wasn't available this year during the regular season; unfortunately, I was hurt. I thought I wasn't going to be able to come back to Madrid this year, but we got to the playoffs and got this chance to visit, not just for one game, but for two games in four days. That was great and the fans definitely showed me a lot of love. It was a great feeling, something that if you know them, you know it was not anything out of the ordinary with the connection that we have with each other. I have always showed them love and they always showed me love. The one thing about Madrid is that it is always a family. It is great to be part of that. I am thankful that I was able to see them again, even if it is as an opponent who wants to move forward in the competition.
I think that love from Madrid fans is because when I was there, for several reasons, I really put my heart into everything that had to do with the club – football and basketball. Anything to do with Madrid, I was someone that supported them and wanted to be a part of it. That was fun; I don't think they ever saw an American who loves football like me! I just really enjoyed every aspect of the club and they appreciated that.
Right now our goal is to get back to Madrid for a Game 5. That would give us a chance to reach the Final Four here in Istanbul. Just the opportunity to get to the Final Four is a big deal, period, no matter if the Final Four is in Istanbul, London, Paris or anywhere else. Every organization wants to be there and win a championship. That was our main goal from Day One and we really believe that; it is all we are trying for. We have to win two games to do it; we have to take advantage of every opportunity, of our strengths and their weaknesses. Whoever is hot in any game, we have to continue to ride him and be consistent.
It was special to play in our first ever playoff home game. It was a great atmosphere. We built a fan base here and the atmosphere was great. But we have to do better fighting and giving them more to cheer about. I hope our fans will have our back again in Game 4!