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Bartzokas: «We believe we can win»

Olympiacos hosts Real Madrid on Monday (21/4, 19:00 CET), for the third Euroleague play-offs game and as pointed out by Giorgos Bartzokas and Brent Petway, the goal of the Back2Back European Champions is to win in the presence of their fans and take the series to 2-1.

Olympiacos hosts Real Madrid on Monday (21/4, 19:00 CET), for the third Euroleague play-offs game and as pointed out by Giorgos Bartzokas and Brent Petway, the goal of the Back2Back European Champions is to win in the presence of their fans and take the series to 2-1.

“Happy Easter to everyone! We thank you for being here on such a day instead of being with your families. Our schedule includes a practice session today and a game tomorrow against Real Madrid in terms of this very difficult series. As you know, the two initial games are going to be our guide as to what is going to happen in the next one. Each team obviously makes some changes based on previous games and we are going to do the same. What I mean of course is minor tactical changes. And hope that tomorrow with the help of our fans and knowing that we have to play very well as a team against such a quality and talented team, we will be able to win to play again on Wednesday. We all believe that we can do it, we don’t think it’s something impossible. We have all witnessed the talent of this team and we are aware of what they are capable of if you allow them to play a fast game. They have three guards that cover all options, as well as talented big bodies, so we have to somehow mess with their game and we are ready to do so and move along with the series” was what Giorgos Bartzokas said during his original statement.

He was then asked about missed free throws during the first two games and if they played a role in the outcome as well as if this is something in need of improvement. “I agree, especially when a game is decided by small details, they play a part. They always play a part in big games. If you want me to explain this, I would definitely say that guards have different success rates than tall players. But missed free throws by big players hurt us the most, as well as free throws by let’s say Giorgos Printezis that has a very good career percentage, or Vassilis Spanoulis who missed three, we actually missed a total of 12. It’s something that plays a role in the outcome of the game, but you cannot put more emphasis on the team, that is there is nothing more to say or instruct them to do. It has to do with stress, pressure, focus and of course, with individual skill. It’s something each player has to manage on his own because any team intervention, as said by experts, only puts more pressure. I hope we have a better percentage tomorrow that is going to help us win”.

Asked whether Olympiacos goal in the third game is to make a better start compared to the two previous ones, the 48year old coach said that “this can never be a coach’s goal. A wish yes, but a goal, no. The way basketball is being played with 24’’ second offenses, the way Real and Olympiacos have been playing, they can always turn a game around, no matter the difference. Differences are not that important. I wish we are better at the beginning. They played an excellent second game. The important thing for us was that we stayed together despite their amazing beginning that would have easily caused a collapse. We stayed together and close to the score. I also think we had played a good offensive game in the first half. We aim to begin well; it’s not easy to control that, the opponent is always a factor. We feel that any quintet we may be using, the goal is to make a good head start. You also have to take in the human factor as well. You can never program that. If that was the case, then one would use a certain quintet and they would always be playing well”.

On Laso’s tactics in regard to the practice sessions of his team and on how he manages the roster at hand: “First of all I would like to say, and I’m being perfectly honest here, I have great respect for the said coach. And because it’s not right to always doubt everything, according to numbers and his team’s winning record, Real is the best team in Europe right now. With the best defense per possession, best offense etc. Mr. Laso manages the situation exceptionally well. Sometimes, the best thing is to manage your team’s habits and that’s what he’s been doing. It’s a way of addressing the situation and the way games have been going this season, European basketball tends to be more like the NBA, regardless if this is a good or a bad thing. Managing results is even more important. Trips, games, you have to play 80-85 games in the season. You could win the Euroleague having played 12 games in the past, now you play 14 just for the TOP-16. You have to play too many games now, there is extra burden on the internationals due to summer obligations, I have told you before, it has been obvious in our case, our three Greek internationals got injured during the TOP-16 round, and these injuries, even Stratos’ (i.e. Perperoglou) case of flu are due to fatigue. Managing the new situation in European basketball needs to be studied. But in order not to avoid the question, the way their team is managed, with very intense practices, speed and focusing on the players’ talent, has led them where they are now. We have a different way to handle things, like many teams in Europe as well. We have many young players that need a lot of practice. Of course there experienced players as well. I think we have done well this season and we only need to win tomorrow to confirm as such and move on”.

On the defensive strategy that he’s going to be following in the game and whether he’s going to continue with the defense of the second half of the second game in Madrid: “I can never talk about tactics. Tactics are first announced to the players. It will derive from our observations from the first two games. I was told by the doctors and our trainer that Stratos will be practicing today. It’s tough or rather impossible to use him tomorrow. He has been given intravenous antibiotics, before he was not responding to oral medication. He’s very weak since he has been absent for a month and then he got sick”.

On the fact that should elimination occurs a two year journey will be over: “Olympiacos is not obligated to win the Euroleague each year. What everyone expects from our team is to try for the best. We originally have to make an assessment when this season’s participation with the Euroleague ends and not now. Yugoplastica won the title three years in a row playing 12 games a season. Real has not won a European title since 1995. I would not say that a journey is over, but rather that the journey for his season, that is a totally different one each year, will be over. I think that even more important than winning a title is being consistent and always show up for the big competition. And if you are there, you are going to have more chances at winning more trophies. My players were really upset after the end of the second game, they all thought it was a great opportunity to win. We’ll do our best to win. We’ll do what we’ve been doing the whole season, mistakes and all, but we are going to really try hard. We don’t want to say goodbye to the Euroleague yet”.

On whether there is any fear for Real: “There is no fear for this team. And I think that Real has been very contained against us. I don’t know if you have the same feeling. You saw what happened in Spain, when we returned from trailing by 17 points, the fans froze. Both teams respect one another. And it’s always about the human factor. We try to put as many players as possible into the play-offs spirit and I think we are going to be ready tomorrow”.

BRENT PETWAY: “We need to start the third game the way we finished with the second one there. Especially in defense, as well as in offense. Of course it’s important not to miss free throws when playing at this level. Free throws are a combination of a many factors. I hope that things don’t turn out in a way that we lose the game due to free throws. There is always motivation in a play-offs game. Even more so now, knowing that should we lose we go home. Our fans are going to help us and we are going to try for the best. The key is to begin well especially in defense and not allow them find rhythm.