|13 March 2013|
It's difficult for any team to regroup immediately after a heavy 29-point loss and within just two days, turn the tables on an opponent that inflicted such a demoralising defeat on them.
But Joensuun Kataja head coach Jukka Toijala had some convincing arguments on his side when he tried to motivate his troops on the eve of Game 2 of their EuroChallenge quarter-final play-off series against BCM Gravelines Dunkerque.
"If we had played well and lost by 30 points, the loss would have been certainly more difficult to handle," the Finnish coach said about Tuesday night's 86-57 defeat in Game 1 at Gravelines.
"Instead, we had a very modest performance and we have guaranteed motivation [for the second game] at home, where we can play to our strengths," he added.
Kataja's numb display in Game 1, especially during the first quarter where the awe-struck Finns stood by as their hosts came out guns blazing to take a 26-7 lead, was just one of the reasons why Toijala can hope that 'tomorrow is another day'.
The biggest factor contributing to Kataja's poor showing on Tuesday was the absence of their top player, Jermaine Flowers.
The American small forward, who leads the team in scoring and steals and is their second-best rebounder, was unable to feature in Game 1.
He had been rested in league action at the weekend as he was nursing a finger injury, but in the end Kataja decided it would be best if he skipped Game 1 - he should be back though for the decisive second clash at home.
Another important motivational tool Toijala is making use of is the home court factor, which is an enormous advantage for Kataja.
The coach reminded everyone on Wednesday that his team had lost by 19 points (89-70) to Pinar Karsiyaka on the road in the Last 16 yet prevailed 87-79 over the Turkish side at home, four weeks later, to clinch the last ticket on offer to the quarter-finals.
What's more, Thursday's game will be broadcast live on a national scale by public channel YLE.
An international basketball game shown on TV might be an everyday occurrence in other European countries, but it is a quite special occasion for the core of Finnish players on the squad.
Kataja have only suffered one loss at home this season, but it was to a team that no one has been able to beat anyway, regardless of venue - the almighty Krasnye Krylia, the only side that still marches undefeated in the EuroChallenge.
|The return of Jermaine Flowers will be detrimental to Joensuun Kataja's chances of victoring|
BCM from their part are not worried about Game 2, because they did everything right on Tuesday and they have the confidence they can replicate that on Thursday and sweep the series.
Aldo Curti, who normally comes off the bench and helps at the point guard position, took a knock in practice and missed the game, but starting playmaker Dwight Buycks was hardly in need of rest.
The 24-year-old American executed coach Christian Monschau's game plan to perfection, and the team just got on with what they have been doing all season, so successfully indeed that they are leading the French Pro A League.
Buycks took 10 shots from the floor and made six of them to score 18 points, and when he couldn't get any open looks he passed the ball so efficiently that he finished with eight assists.
His performance propelled the French backcourt's complete dominance in the game, as four other BCM perimeter players combined for 49 points in addition to Buycks's 18.
With the Gravelines backcourt on fire, Center Ludovic Vaty, the team's second leading scorer, could almost put his feet up on Tuesday and stay fresh for Game 2, as he stayed on the floor for only 17 minutes.
In order to stand a chance to take the series to a third game, Kataja will need to find on Thursday a way to limit the action of BCM's backcourt without stretching their defence so much that Vaty or the rest of the BCM big men find space inside.