After an incredible win for Real Madrid against Panathinaikos at OAKA by a Rudy Fernández “circus shot” at the final buzzer, Sergio Llull shares with TalkBasket.net his views on the game and his career.
Even if the match-up with Panathinaikos OPAP didn’t decide nor change dramatically anything in the standings, last night at OAKA was one to remember for the fans, the players and the staff of Real Madrid. Recovering from a 18-point-deficit in the first period, the Euroleague champions made their biggest comeback in the season, downing a perfectly confident Greek team, which had celebrated six straight wins in Euroleague action.
With the score at 73-71 for the Greens and only 21 seconds on the shot clock, Madrid’s last chances for the win in Athens seemed to go down the drain, as the prospects of scoring a basket were limited by the hosts’ defense. Luckily for the champs, the ball went to the right hands: those of Rudy Fernández. The Spanish national made a very difficult three-pointer from a 8.5-meter-distance, beating both the game clock and DeShaun Thomas’s hands who tried to block his vision to the basket.
Real Madrid escaped from OAKA for the second time in a row, after their triumph in the second game of the play-off series against Panathinaikos last year. This time, Rudy was the ultimate hero, but Sergio Llull had also his say in the game. The natural leader of “Los Blancos” scored crucial three-pointers that kept his team alive, thus allowing Fernández to work his miracle just two tenths of a second before the final buzzer.
TalkBasket.net took advantage of the media availability that Real Madrid offered by allowing entrance to their locker-room and Sergio Lull answered all kinds of questions.
Q: How did you experience the game?
A: Well, it was a very tough match, as always here at OAKA and against Panathinaikos and their great fans. I think that in the end we didn’t stop trying, never put our hands down and thanks to Rudy’s great basket we have been able to win.
Q: Did you expect him to make that shot?
A: It came out quite well in terms of strength. Those shots are very difficult. Time was ticking out and he managed to find a good way to throw the ball. Well, it went in and we are happy for the victory.
Q: What does this victory mean for Real Madrid?
A: It means that we continue to recover part of our lost confidence because we were defeated four times in a row, both in the Euroleague and in the ACB. I think we played a very serious game. In the first quarter we were very unfortunate. We missed a lot of shots and had a problem controlling the rebounds. In the end, through the struggle and the effort of the whole team, we were able to win.
Q: What is the condition of the team right now?
A: The team is fine. Physically we are well, we hope to get Gabriel Deck back and we must continue working.
Q: Do you think that the duel with Panathinaikos last year has taught the team to be tougher?
A: Yes, all those matches help you. When you play against Panathinaikos, you know that you have to give 200% to beat them. It is a very hard team, very physical and when they play at home with their great fans, they grow. I think that by and large our team made a good game. We have been able to come back and win.
Q: How do you feel?
A: Physically, I’m good. I am happy to be at 100% and help the team as I can. We now have to think about Sunday’s game (in Tenerife) and then try to beat Zalgiris at home to finish the regular season strong and continue our trajectory.
Q: Where do you see your future? Will it be in Spain or in the NBA?
A: I do not think about the future, only about the present. My present is here, in Real Madrid and my goal is to fight for the two remaining titles, the Euroleague and the Spanish League. We’ll see what the future holds.
Q: Did you know that your agent (Ernest Berenguer) said that you prefer to be more of a protagonist in Europe, even if this means receiving less money than in the NBA and in Houston?
A: I do not know, I have not read this statement. I cannot talk about something I don’t know. I feel very well in Madrid. I am happy to be able to help the team.
Q: This year it seems hard to beat FC Barcelona. Why is it so?
A: Yes, they have a great team. Lately, they have our number and that’s why we lost the last three games against them. It is a hard team, very physical. We have to improve against all great teams, if we want to compete with them.