Felipe Reyes, Real Madrid
April 5, 2011
| This season will surely be remembered for producing four of the most exciting sets of Quarterfinal Playoffs series ever seen in Euroleague Basketball. However only one of them will go the distance. That series draws to a close on Thursday when Real Madrid hosts Power Electronics Valencia in the Spanish capital in the fifth-and-deciding game of the best-of-five series. One of the main protagonists for the host team in this series in particular as well as the season as a whole is starting big man Felipe Reyes, who aims to lead the Whites to their first Euroleague Final Four in 15 years and his first in what has been an impressive career to date. In 122 career Euroleague games, Reyes has practically seen it all, including a do-or-die playoff game against a Spanish League foe to reach the Final Four. He and Madrid came up short that time – against FC Barcelona exactly five years ago – but are as ready as ever for this challenge and boast something they didn’t have then, home-court advantage. With days to go before this must-win contest, Reyes spoke about his season, the Real Madrid fans and his Euroleague title aspirations in the Euroleague.net interview. Perhaps most importantly, Reyes laid out the key to winning Game 5. "Defense will be the biggest [key]. The best defensive team has won each of the previous games. Rebounding will be key, too," Reyes told Euroleague.net. "We will do everything we can to win on Thursday and go to the Final Four."
Hello, Felipe. How have the Euroleague season and the series against Power Electronics been for you until now?
"Well, our Euroleague season has been good so far. We managed to finish second at the end of the regular season and win our Top 16 group to get the home-court advantage in the Playoffs - which is what we all wanted. It has been a tough, balanced series. Both teams have been able to win on the road and it all comes down to Thursday's game, which won't be different from the rest of the series. The winner will be the only Spanish team in the Final Four, which says enough about how important the game will be. Real Madrid has been out of the Final Four for many years and, for a club like this, it is quite a long time. We have to give 100% on Thursday to try to be there."
Like you said, it comes down to one game now. Madrid could reach its first Final Four in 15 years. Is that extra pressure or extra motivation?
"It has to be extra motivation, no question about it. We want to play the Euroleague Final Four no matter what. It would be very important for us, the players, but also for the club after being away from the Final Four for so many years, and of course for our fans. We know the prize is big and are going for it."
If Madrid makes it to the Final Four, it will be the only Top 16 champion to play in Barcelona. Are you surprised with what you have seen in other series?
"To be honest, all the series were pretty balanced and every team could have won. I don't remember such balanced series, all of them, in a long time. Not in the last few years at least. Anybody could have won. I was definitely surprised when I saw Montepaschi lose by more than 40 points against Olympiacos. I knew that Montepaschi was a good team and a top candidate to be at the Final Four – and you saw what happened next."
Madrid has more options around the baskets with as many as six players able to play inside. How much of a factor can this be to win the game?
"It is an important factor. We have more time to be fresh when we take the court. The more we are, the better. The big guys are a very important factor in this series and the stronger we play inside and the more rebounds we get, the more chances we will have to win the game. The strongest team on the boards will most probably win the game, and I hope it is us, of course."
One of the key matchups in the series sees you against Dusko Savanovic. What do you like about him as a player?
"He is a good player, a mobile power forward with deep shooting range. He is tough to stop especially because of that - you cannot allow him any space to shoot or he will punish you from outside. He has good driving skills, too."
You are playing against a team you know very well, since you have played against Valencia several times this season. Does that make the series even tougher for Madrid?
"No, not really - every team we could have faced would be tough, anyway. In a five-game series to go to the Final Four, you cannot expect to face an easy opponent. Of course, we had played against Valencia several times before the series and that is the only problem I see. Mentally speaking, it is a bit exhausting to play so many times against the same team in such a short time. That's the only problem. Valencia is giving us trouble and is showing why they made it to the Quarterfinals. They are playing unbelievably since Coach Pesic joined the team. They went from being almost out of the Euroleague to being one win away from reaching the Final Four. You have to give them credit for that."
There is no room to be surprised after four tough games. What do you have to do to beat Valencia and how important will be the support you can get at Caja Magica?
"Fan support will be very, very important. I am just happy there will be a sellout crowd at the Caja Magica on Thursday to help us. We need their support, they are like a sixth player for us. As for the keys to this game, defense will be the biggest one. The best defensive team has won each of the previous games. Rebounding will be key, too."
Where do you rank the Final Four and the Euroleague title on the short list of "unfinished business" in your career?
"It is very special. I am really looking forward to playing a Final Four after so many years. It is one of the few things I haven't done in my career. I am one win away from playing it, but it is not a done deal yet. We know it will be a difficult game, but I hope we can win it to achieve that goal. I would love to play the Final Four and have a better chance to win the Euroleague title."
What would it mean for the club to go back to a Final Four and fight for the Euroleague title after such a long time?
"Well, you can imagine how important this would be for the club. It is very important for us to see Madrid as one of the best four teams in Europe. If we manage to win the title, that will be even better. We are fully aware of how important reaching the Final Four is not only for the club, but for our fans. Once again, we will do everything we can to win on Thursday and go to the Final Four."