Hello, Eurocup fans, this is Petteri Koponen of Khimki Moscow Region. After our 31 consecutive wins in two competitions, Valencia Basket beat us by 16 points in Game 1 of the Eurocup Eighthfinals. We know, of course, that Valencia is a good team and tried to prepare well for this game, but they totally took us out of our own rhythm in the beginning of the game. They were really aggressive and played with pure energy and got their confidence straight away. After that, it was hard to come back. We were down by 16 points at the end of the first quarter and I can say that we didn't find our rhythm in the first half. The second half was a little bit better for us.
We tried to play with more intensity after the break. Valencia killed us in the first half due to their great intensity and energy. They played great defense in the first half and we couldn't even run our offense. They put a lot of pressure on our point guards and we couldn't run set plays or find our rhythm. We scored 22 first-half points, which is not very good for us. You have to give credit to Valencia: they played really well and knew what they had to do. We could not find answers. At halftime, we talked about playing with more energy and intensity and trying to recover step by step, trying to reduce the points difference as much as possible, knowing there is a second game at home.
OK, we know that we played a bad game in Valencia, but I don't think we have given up anything yet. It is not going to be easy, but we play Game 2 at home, in front of our fans, and we will fight and give everything we have to win the game by at least 16 points, or force overtime and win it there. We know that everything is possible and if we start the game the way Valencia did in Game 1, things can change. We will see: nothing comes easy in the Eurocup and Valencia is a very good team. They want to slow the game down and not give us anything easy! We have to be ready to fight on Wednesday. The ball is is the air and we have to give everything we have — and even more — from the very beginning of Game 2.
We had a little break and some Russian Cup games before travelling to Valencia. Maybe we were a little bit out of game rhythm but that is not an excuse. We had a bad game and Valencia was much more intense than us. I think we were not ready in the beginning. I know — and anybody in the team knows — that if we are confident from the beginning, you start to feel the game and everything is different. That is what we have to do on Wednesday: be sharp from the beginning, be intense and play our own basketball. We have to go step by step, play by play, in order to get the point difference we need. Playing at home, I believe that if we play well, we will have a chance to advance. Everything is possible!
Paul Davis is a great player: he always plays well and the fact that he couldn't play was hard for us. He may be able to help us on Wednesday but we can't count on that. We won many games without Paul this season and don't have to expect him to do some sort of miracle for us. With or without Paul, we have to step up and play better. Everybody knows that we can play better than we showed in Valencia. That's the key: we have to be ready and focused, try to start the game as good as possible and open the series a little bit.
Valencia made the most of their home court advantage, with great fans. When you play at home, your own fans give you more energy and make you be more focused and intense. We didn't start the game well in Valencia and they got their crowd going, cheering for them. Their fans made Valencia feel really comfortable and good. That is something we wanted to avoid, but couldn't do it — and now we are hoping to have the same in the game in Khimki, great fan support and a good atmosphere. After that, it will not be easy for Valencia to play in our home court. We know we can play well at home in Khimki and everybody — players, fans, everyone — will be ready on Wednesday. I believe we can have chances if we play well. I know that Khimki fans will come to the game and help us try to get us to the quarterfinals!