After a 0-4 start, Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz has been able to win three of last next four games and is currently the hottest team in the competition.
Last week, Baskonia handed Real Madrid its worst loss in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague this century, 105-75, and went on to beat Zalgiris in Kaunas by 20 points, 77-97. Its current momentum started when Rodrigue Beaubois hit a game-winning shot against Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens that not only set Fernando Buesa Arena on fire, but also stopped his team's four-game losing streak. Beaubois is having his best EuroLeague season, averaging 14.6 points on excellent shooting percentages: 55.9% inside the arc, 45.9% from downtown and 86.7% from the foul line. He is the fourth best per-minute scorer in the competition (25.4 per 40 minutes), only trailing Luka Doncic of Real Madrid, Kevin Seraphin of FC Barcelona Lassa and Nando De Colo of CSKA Moscow, who grew up with him playing together for Cholet Basket. Beaubois is looking forward to keeping his and the team's momentum, starting with a very special showdown against Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in the Serbian capital on Thursday. "It is always exciting to play in such an amazing atmosphere. That is the kind of game you want to play and of course, the kind of game you want to win," Beaubois told EuroLeague.net. "They have great fans to cheer for them from the beginning until the end of the game. We need to be ready for a tough game."
Hello, Rodrigue. It was a big week for Baskonia, winning both EuroLeague games by a combined margin of 50 points. How much did you need a week like this for the team's confidence?
"We definitely needed it because of the way we started the season. As everybody knows, we didn't start the season the way we wanted, so having a week like that was something good for us. We needed to win, and we did it."
Baskonia had an amazing first half against Real Madrid, 64 points. Could that be a season-changing moment, playing so well against such strong team?
"It is always a great feeling to be able to play that well, the entire team. I wouldn't say that it changed our season, but the season is very long and everyone has ups and downs. Right now, we have been playing well in the last few games and are happy about that. We know we need to keep working because at the end of the day, the season will be very long and every game is different."
You won three of the last four EuroLeague games since Pedro Martinez stepped in as head coach. How did he help you play so much better right away?
"He came with an idea about the way he wanted us to play defense. We must keep working on it, because everything is not perfect, but we can see that improvement on defense. He makes sure that chemistry is important and so far, we are doing well. We need to keep working and keep going."
It is also showing on offense. You are taking more three-point shots with a much better percentage (49.2%) since Martinez arrived. Is it also a matter of confidence?
"Like I said, we are in a good rhythm right now but I don't like to compare coaches. Pedro is very focused about our defense, and if we play good defense, that also gives us confidence on offense. He wants us to play freely and share the ball a lot. We need to keep moving the ball, and that is what he wants from us on offense. We need to keep working together, because when we play together, we get good results."
Matt Janning re-signed his contract until the end of the season. How important is he for the team?
"Very important, because he has been playing very well, especially in the last few weeks. He brings energy defensively, helping us be on the same page, and offensively, he is a great player, a great shooter, very important for this team."
This is looking like your best EuroLeague season until now. Does being in Baskonia for a second season help you play better?
"I mean, I don't really see my numbers or what I have done, I am just focused on my team doing well. We got better now and need to keep working, because it is going to be a long season. That is all that matters, the fact that we are playing well right now. We need to keep doing that."
You hit a game-winning shot against Panathinaikos. What can you tell us about that play?
"We got the rebound and I was given the ball. I looked up and saw there was space but I needed to act quickly because there were only a few seconds left. I just pushed the ball and finally, thank God, I found a way to make the basket. I was just trying to be aggressive. I didn't think much. The game was on the line, we needed a basket, I had the ball and saw an opening. And went for it."
Your next game is against Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade. How great is it to play in such strong atmosphere?
"It is always exciting to play in such an amazing atmosphere. That is the kind of game you want to play and of course, the kind of game you want to win. They have great fans to cheer for them from the beginning until the end of the game. We need to be ready for a tough game. We need to be together, because I expect it to be a very difficult game."
This is your third EuroLeague season, but your second with the new format. How do you like the new EuroLeague?
"It is good, man. You get a chance to play against every team, and everybody has to beat everybody. Back in the day, it depended on which group you were in and stuff like that. Right now, if you want to make it to the playoffs, you have to make sure you play well against everybody, so I like it! For sure, the best eight teams will advance to the playoffs, because you play against everyone."
You are winning on the court. How about ping pong matches against Jayson Granger?
"Yes, we played a few games and I definitely want a rematch! He is pretty good but we need to find the time to play again. For sure, I want a rematch!"
What would be a successful season for Baskonia? What will it take to achieve that?
"Baskonia always wants to win, it is the culture of our team, winning everything, so the goal is to keep winning. We know it is going to be very hard, because there are great teams in the EuroLeague, but Baskonia must try to win everything we can. That is our goal."