If you look at the EuroLeague regular season standings, you will see that we are ninth overall, one win away from playoff territory. We have won our last two games, but so has Maccabi! We still have five games left to play, but four of them are at home and one of those is against Maccabi, in Round 29. Of course, that game will be the most critical in our fight to make it to the playoffs, but there are three games to be played before that one. If we do things right, win our home games and get a road win against Barcelona, we will make it to the playoffs.
It is easy to say, but of course winning five games in a row is a whole different story. I wish we could have easy wins in the EuroLeague. It is never easy! We may play against some of the teams that will not be in the playoffs, but any of them can beat you and we have a lot of examples. Milan just beat Khimki last week. Not so long ago, Valencia downed mighty CSKA at home. We have to play against Zalgiris, Bamberg, Maccabi and Efes at home, in that order and will visit Barcelona in Round 28. All of them will be very competitive games, but we will work hard to win them all.
Some people may think we have an advantage because we will not leave Spain until the end of the regular season. Well, that means we have traveled a lot during the season, right? We only played three of our first nine games at home. Playing so many games on the road led to a bad start to the season. Luckily, we are reaching the final games of this stage in good shape with a lot of home games to be played. We will see!
I would like to thank Adam Waczynski of Unicaja Malaga for admitting in his blog that Baskonia's Mario Kart team beat them in an epic battle coming back from the Copa del Rey on the same flight. Rodri is the best! He is a video game freak! We all played very well and it was not a very balanced game, to tell you the truth. We have been playing Mario Kart all season and most of my teammates play. It is usually Vince, Matt, Marce, Rodri, Toko, Timma and I. Lately, it has been only six of us playing, usually three on three. It's been me, Marce and Matt against Toko, Rodri and Timma - and I am proud to say our team has been beating Beaubois's team on regular basis lately!
It is surprising because Beaubois is very good. We play in a way that you add points – the best position you get in the race, the more points you get – and Rodri was usually first, so his team wins a lot. The funniest thing is that Rodri's wife is also a great Mario Kart player! He is really, really good! Sometimes we are all in our homes, send messages to each other and start playing online against each other. And Rodri's wife is really, really good. It all stays in the family!
For the game against Unicaja, we were all waiting to board at the airport in Gran Canaria. Some of them spoke about their Nintendos, someone brought up the subject and we ended up playing against each other once we got on the plane. It was a very entertaining flight; there was a lot of trash talking and people screaming, that is for sure! Their MVP was definitely Nemanja Nedovic, he is pretty good, but we were at a different level. It is not a cool thing to say, but it is the truth! So, EuroLeague teams out there, we will be waiting for you. I am not saying that we have to play in the pre-game warm-up, but if you guys are playing Mario Kart, you know where to find us! So far, we are undefeated against EuroLeague teams and are accepting challenges. E-sports are on the rise, so get us if you can!
Overall, we are having a good EuroLeague season after our 0-4 start. We had good and bad moments during the season, but now we will play a lot of games at home and are in a very good situation. Like I said, this is the most important moment of the season and the team is arriving at it in good form. This is a great chance for us to give back to our fans and the city of Vitoria for their continuous support and the most immediate goal is trying to make it to the playoffs. We will play against Zalgiris this week - Marce is out and they come with three good point guards - Pangos, Micic and Udrih. We will count on our fans' support to give us the extra boost we need. It will not be easy at all, it is a critical game for us.
It is always a pleasure to play against Sarunas Jasikevicius. That is another good reason to play a good game. "Saras" was a great player with a lot of character and is proving it in his coaching career. He is pushing his team to the limit; you could notice it last season, but this year they are having an amazing year. They are playing at a very high level, at home and also on the road. Zalgiris is hard to beat and "Saras" is doing a great job with the roster that he has.
I have played against all the good point guards in the EuroLeague, but growing up, the one player I wanted to go against was Vassilis Spanoulis. I had the luck to play my first EuroLeague game against him and played defense against him. It was a great feeling; every time I watched a EuroLeague game, I always thought he had a lot of character and was very talented. I am the kind of person who likes to play against the best and making my debut against him was special.
What was not that special was losing against Spanoulis and Olympiacos in a five-game playoff series with Efes last season. We had the win in our hands, just 10 minutes away, and that is an extra motivation for me to go back to the playoffs and challenge for a Final Four spot. We were so close! You can't imagine how much that loss still hurts! We are aware that if we win all our games, not only will we make it to the playoffs, but most probably will not finish eighth, but a bit higher. It is all very close right now. A lot of teams will have to fight until the last round to find out their final position in the standings. Home-court advantage is important, but Fenerbahce proved last season that arriving in the best shape possible is even bigger. We have a good opportunity to reach the playoffs with good momentum. If you are playing well, it doesn't matter where you play. Of course, there are courts out there with great basketball atmospheres, but in the end, it is five-on-five and if you are on the right track, it is easier to win anywhere.
With that in mind, if you are in good form and play at home, everything is even better. There is no need to point out that our fans will play a big role for us in our remaining four home regular season games. Our fans give their best in every home game and we need them more than ever to protect our home court four times in as many weeks. It all starts with our sixth men - and people know basketball in Vitoria. Not only do they know basketball, they have a good time at the arena and support Baskonia no matter what, win or lose. They follow you everywhere, too, even to Russia and Turkey. As a player, you can only be thankful and more motivated to fight for that playoffs spot we all want to reach. Vamos!