Having made the second-most three-pointers during the Euroleague season until now, Uros Tripkovic is one big reason that Partizan Belgrade has at least a shooter's chance when it meets CSKA Moscow in the playoffs starting Tuesday. Since he debuted in the Euroleague shortly after his 16th birthday in 2002, Tripkovic has been there for every step of Partizan's remarkable rise to a second consecutive playoff appearance. Now, facing five games against the defending champs, Tripkovic has the confidence of experience to back up his immense talent. "We are going against the best team in the Euroleague with no pressure, Tripkovic told Euroleague.net. "We'll just play basketball."
First, tell us about the mood in Belgrade after the wonderful night when you broke the attendance record against Panathinaikos?
"Everything is better. That was our first game that arena, which 22,000 people, so there was big pressure that night, even without us having to win to make it into the playoffs. We wanted to win that game as the first one we have in that arena, and we got it. Great fans, great game and now it is going to be better when we go back to play CSKA in the playoffs there."
What is the difference between now and last year at this time, when Partizan made the playoffs for the first time?
"We definitely have more experience from last year, even if three or four guys left from that team and we are a younger, newer team this year. No one thought we would get back to the playoffs, but we have played well. Something important is that we played every game better than the last one and made great results. With such a big result already, now we are going against the best team in the Euroleague with no pressure. We'll just play basketball."
You knocked out the champs, Panathinaikos, last year, in one game. Now you face current champs CSKA over five games. Is this challenge more difficult?
"Yes, this will be really difficult. I think they are the favorites, of course. Maybe they have a little better team, so it's going to be really difficult to win three games against CSKA. But we already won in Moscow and almost won at home, so we know that we can play with them."
Looking back, how much confidence does the regular season victory in Moscow give you guys?
"We won that game in Moscow, so we saw that we can do something. That's important. Now we have two chances there. I hope we'll be lucky enough to win one."
When you think of CSKA, who on that team do you think about most?
"I can't answer because CSKA has 10 great players. Everyone who goes on the court for them gives 100 percent of himself, so to me, every player they have is great."
Would you prefer a three-game series or this five-game series?
Maybe it's better to play for two wins against a team like CSKA. It's just easier against a really good team to win two times than three."
What does Partizan have to do to knock out the champions from CSKA?
"We have to play better than ever. We have to play defense like we know how to, and we have to play without pressure."
Wednesday, March 18, 2009