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Moving on

We were extremely happy after beating Partizan and making it to the Final Four once again. At the same time, we were worried: it was the strongest panel of teams in years. Our rivals had deeper rosters, especially in some key positions. We knew that fouls could be a major problem for us.

We had more than enough time to prepare for the game with Barcelona. We analyzed and showed to our players the strengths of this team and its very few weaknesses. Having so much time for preparation gave us the possibility to try different things that might work against Barcelona.

On the other hand, we didn’t have enough competition in the weeks before the Final Four. We tried to make it up by inviting Efes Pilsen for two games in Moscow. Again, we would like to thank them for coming here and helping us, as it was very important for us to have these games against a strong opponent. Obviously, we couldn’t recreate the challenge of true games, even though we played with fouls, referees and one game with public in the stands.

Giving more time to Sasha Kaun was the most important thing we had to do. We thought that, thanks to his quickness and his rebounding abilities, Sasha could be an important factor against such an athletic team as Barcelona.

Giving more time to Sasha Kaun was the most important thing we had to do. We thought that, thanks to his quickness and his rebounding abilities, Sasha could be an important factor against such an athletic team as Barcelona

We left for Berlin on Tuesday, the same way we did it last year. I thought it was important for us to have the whole Wednesday for practice and preparation, escaping the excitement of the crowd, since the majority of the fans and guests arrive on Thursday.

As I was afraid of, we had a slow start against Barcelona. The main reason behind it was a lack of competition over the last several weeks. Foul trouble also played a major role. Lorbek, who was in his first Final Four as a starter and played under a lot of expectations after being named to Second All-Euroleague team, picked up two quick fouls, what really affected our rotation.

After a poor start, we did a good thing by attacking their guards to draw fouls. As a result, Barcelona had to sideline Navarro and Grimau, two very important players for their system. Without Lorbek on the court, with Terence, Sasha and Victor playing the 3-position, we had a great comeback and the game became close. I felt that in a close game, we would arrive in the final minutes with a cold mind thus having a little advantage over Barcelona. The way Ramunas stepped up in the second half decided the outcome of the game. Another thing that made me happy was the attention our players were paying to rebounding. In the second half Barcelona, a great offensive-rebounding team, had only one offensive rebound. Victor Khryapa playing the 4-position was also a big factor.

Our fans supported us even after a bad start. We felt this support, and the team managed to stay calm. All in all, we won the game and advanced to the final.

According to a new rule by Euroleague, players were not allowed to stay and watch the other semifinal as there was no team section. I decided to join my team as I didn’t want to waste energy watching the game and hoping for this or that team to win. I went to say hello to my relatives, then I went back and watched Olympiacos — Panathinaikos playing in the Greek league, three weeks before the Final Four.

When we knew that we would face Panathinaikos in the final, I received the video of the other semifinal and started watching it. We had one day of preparation that went normally. We knew that we had to face the team that was very strong and very well organized by coach Obradovic. They are not only a team that is very powerful inside, but they are also very quick on the perimeter.

It doesn’t matter now why we had such a bad second quarter. We had a very bad one. For sure, we were handicapped by fouls and we went down. At that point, our team did something very important. The team refused to give up, the team tried to gather, the team played much harder. We came one three-pointer short of winning Euroleague. Last shot by Ramunas was a good one. He made those shots many times before. If it went in, it could have been the greatest comeback in the history of Euroleague. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

It’s really frustrating that during that span of 4 years, with four Euroleague finals and two trophies, we weren’t able to beat Panathinaikos. We always came short. We always lost by very little margin making little mistakes down the stretch. We just have to live with it, but we shouldn’t forget all the good things that the club, the team, the supporters did over those years.

We are happy and proud of the people we have here. We just hope that our owners will continue to support this program in order to let CSKA stay on top of Euroleague for the years to come

Honestly, I didn’t care too much about my feelings. Obviously, I was frustrated. It’s always like this when you lose. But I was more worried about my players feeling ashamed, because there was nothing shameful in losing such a great final, especially after what most of them had done for CSKA over years. My first thought was about the upcoming playoffs of the Russian league. I was thinking: “We must find a way to be ready for the playoffs, because UNICS is a very tough opponent. It’s the only team that defeated us this year in Russia”. I knew that we would be in big trouble, if we played two first home games depressed. I made a short comment after the game and I gave the players one day off (basically, with the day of the trip there were two days off) to stay with their friends, with their families, to try to relax. Then we started our preparation for UNICS. I didn’t say one more word about that game. I didn’t show one more video of that game. Sport is a very good metaphor of life. You have to move on. You can’t stay and keep looking backwards.

Could it have been better if we didn’t have that last chance shot? Even myself, I was wandering, maybe, it could have been better to lose with Barcelona, not to be so close to the title, not to endure such a painful loss (for the way that loss came). But I think if you have a chance to win, you should always try to win.

It was interesting that both David Andersen and Theo Papaloukas were the best players, respectively, of Barcelona and Olympiacos. Andersen had a great game against us. I told him right after the game that he played another great game in his career. I knew it made no sense to say “I’m sorry”, because I was very happy that we won. However he played an outstanding game, probably one of the best I’ve ever seen him play.

Theo was a key player for Olympiacos this year. Seeing these two kids being so important for their new teams, making it to the Final Four, for sure, caused some regrets in our fans. But again, in sports, like in life, your life cannot always remain intact. They decided to have another chance, to have another experience, to do it with another club. We are happy and proud of the people we have here. We just hope that our owners will continue to support this program in order to let CSKA stay on top of Euroleague for the years to come.

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