Hello, Eurocup fans! Once again, this is Thomas Kelati of BC Khimki, which is now one of the teams that made it to the Eurocup Finals! It is amazing feeling! It was our number one goal from the very beginning of the season, getting to the finals, which start in just two weeks! We know it is a big advantage to play the finals on our home court, in the gym where we practice and played for the last seven months. It was difficult to get here but we are very happy to be exactly where we wanted to be. Getting here was the first step and winning is the second! This team was put together thinking that we would be in the Euroleague. It is a Euroleague-level team, a very ambitious club and a well-known name in European basketball. We know that winning the Eurocup will give us a guaranteed spot in the Euroleague. It would be very disappointing not to win the title.
Getting to the Euroleague is great, but winning a title like the Eurocup is equally important for this club. They go hand in hand. The Eurocup is an underrated competition! It is very difficult. There are a lot of good teams, especially when you get to the quarterfinals. You play against teams that are looking for the same thing – get to the Euroleague – but winning something like the Eurocup is a great accomplishment in itself. We are ready and prepared enough to play in the Euroleague next season and definitely want to finish this journey we are taking in the Eurocup.
As you know, we beat Lokomotiv Kuban in the quarterfinals, which wasn't easy at all. The last two minutes of Game 1 was critical, and we got a nice lead that allowed us to win the series. If we have won that game by 2 or 3 points, which is basicly what it was after 38 minutes, it could have been a different story for us. Those last 2 minutes were great for us, it was a great push and we ended up winning by 9. We went to Krasnodar knowing it would be a tough game. Even when in a game like that you try not to think about points difference, it was at the back of our minds. Every second counts in a two-way series. That last push really saved us. Lokomotiv is a great team and I am sure they will be even better in the future, but I am just glad that we came out ahead.
We had a nice lead in Game 2 but Lokomotiv rallied and almost took the series before Zoran Planinic hit critical free throws to win it down the stretch. They were able to come back — maybe we relaxed a little bit. They came out much more aggressive in the second half and we stopped playing our game. We also looking at the referees, expecting fouls to be called, and you can't do that, especially in a quarterfinals game on the opposing team's home court. We were just worrying about the wrong things and once things came down to the final minutes we have to refocus and say: "Look, we can't worry about the referees or any other situation. We are here now and must focus on winning the series." And we did that.
Zoran has been a leader for us all season. He has done that all year for us, making big plays in close games. Zoran is a big point guard who sees the court really well and is a very smart player. We want him to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game. He knocked down 2 free throws in the final seconds and I don't think people realized that two plays before that he was hit in the nerve and he was complaining he could not even feel his hand. Still, he knocked down those free throws. That explains what kind of a player he is and what he means to this team.
Since some of you are coming to the Eurocup Finals, I thought it would be a good idea to explain what to do in Khimki, even though right now it is a little bit cold, more so than anywhere else! The gym, its facilities and the area around it are not bad at all. People who come here may want to get a tour guide or talk to some people, and stay away from the roads, because there is a lot of traffic. There are some great restaurants and the atmosphere in the arena will be great. The club has been preparing for the Eurocup Finals for a month already, getting everything ready and making sure that all is up to the standards of the Eurocup Finals. People should come here with good expectations!
Of course, Moscow is close enough to go visit, but you need to know the right time to go! I would recommend to everybody to visit there, because it is beautiful. It blew my mind away when I first came here. The city has everything you can imagine, so many museums and things to see. If you have the chance, I recommend that everyone go to Red Square. It takes around an hour and a half to get there with traffic, but you can make it there in 30 minutes without traffic, no problem. If you come all the way over to Khimki, you have to see Moscow! I think it is easy to get into Moscow early in the morning, but remember, the Eurocup Finals games are not too late, so make sure to get back to Khimki with plenty of time!
Winning a second Eurocup title would be absolutely huge, very special for me and my buddy Matt Nielsen. We won it together two years ago with Valencia. It would be a great thing to always have in my memories. When you get to this age in basketball, you only care about titles and winning. Guys like me and Matt have sacrificed statistics and individual goals for the better of the team, to win titles. This is what it's all about and what matters to me. I will do whatever it takes to help the team accomplish that goal. I remember when we won the competition with Valencia in 2010. It was a great thing to go through that whole experience with all the guys. We pretty much have the same situation here now: I like all of my teammates, we get along and winning the Eurocup would be the perfect end to this journey we started several months ago!