|Alan Anderson has been in this situation before. His team, defending champion Regal FC Barcelona, is tied 1-1 in the Quarterfinal Playoffs with Panathinaikos and heading to a tough home court, OAKA in Athens, to keep its Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four hopes alive in the third and fourth games of their best-of-five series. Last season, as Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv's top player, Anderson saw the same dream die in Belgrade as Partizan celebrated a Final Four ticket, instead. This season, Anderson joined Barcelona just before the start of the Top 16 and settled in as the No. 2 scoring option behind Juan Carlos Navarro. Anderson has taken advantage of defenses focusing on Navarro to make a career-high 47.8% of his three-pointers – including 5 of 7 so far in the Playoffs. One of three players who joined last season's champs, Anderson brings valuable experience, scoring ability and defensive presence to the floor as Barcelona arrives to Game 3. The visitors have an imperative to win at least one game before 18,000 devoted Panathinaikos fans at OAKA if they wish to eventually defend their title at home, either in a fifth game or the Final Four on the first weekend of May. "Sometimes, it's the best going against a crowd like that," Anderson told Euroleague.net. "When you're home, you've got the club and the crowd behind you, but when you're away it's just the team. Nobody is going to get you going but you, and that's a motivation. There's no better feeling that going somewhere and getting a win against 20,000 people."
Alan, you've been through some intense basketball in your career. How does the first week of the playoffs compare?
"It's up there. We're playing against a great team like Panathinaikos, with great players and a great history they have. These matches are at a very high level. I've played in big games before, like in the NCAA tournament, and it's just fun to be in games like these. So far, both games seem to have come down to the last shot and the last second. When that happens, it makes every quarter, every minute and every possession that much more valuable."
In your fourth Euroleague season, this is the first time you run into Panathinaikos. Do you understand them better after last week?
"I guess so. I never played against most of their players before. Two or three, yes, but the majority, no. The other thing is that even when you maybe saw guys before, when you play on a team like Barcelona, you are always going to get another team's best effort. All teams know that if they don't give us their best, it could be a blowout. Every team plays its best against us, because that's what it takes to win."
What are you expecting to find at their arena, OAKA, with 18,000 fans?
"I know it's going to be tough. I have played in every kind of atmosphere you can think of. My teammates played and won at OAKA last year, in the same atmosphere, and against Partizan in Belgrade. The team was ready for it and we will be, too. You just have to know what you need to do. Sometimes, it's the best going against a crowd like that. When you're home you've got the club and the crowd behind you, but when you're away it's just the team. Nobody is going to get you going but you, and that's a motivation. There's no better feeling that going somewhere and getting a win against 20,000 people."
Game 1, although it finished by a single point, you guys were up 5 or so with 9 seconds left. Did you feel after that you had Panathinaikos figured out a bit?
"Both teams were feeling each other out all through Game 1. We did a little more in the fourth quarter than we did in the first half, so yeah, we figured them out some by then. The main thing for us has been getting ahead and then not maintaining the lead. Little things like missed calls or fouls or something have hurt us. We let those things pile up and affect the next plays. In Game 1, an unsportsmanlike foul turned into 5 points at the end for them, 2 free throws and a three-pointer, and gave them a shot to win it. In Game 2, we were up by 16 at one time and didn't get a couple calls we thought we should have. We let that affect us, we got a technical and that let Panathinaikos score back-to-back and get confident. They got back in it and took the game from us."
Game 2, just as close, but this time it was your team's three-pointer at the end that missed. Any conclusions from that one?
"The main conclusion is finish every quarter and every half. We start out good in almost all of them, but we have to finish strong so they can't bite us at the end. If we close all the quarters, play all the 40 minutes physically, we'll be fine no matter where we play."
What impresses you about Panathinaikos so far?
"Their work ethic. Whether they are down 16 or up 6, they are still playing hard, running their sets like they have to, no matter the game situation. They have veteran players who know how to take tough shots. And they just keep going on every play until the whistle blows and every game until the final horn blows."
Would you be happy to see the series go five games at this point, because that would mean you win one in Athens?
"Right now, we're just focused on Tuesday. You can't overlook any game and see into the future. That's too big a game on Tuesday to look ahead. The only key now is that game and how we finish it."
Your Maccabi teammates from last year have talked about waiting a year to make up for the playoff loss to Partizan last year and try for the Final Four again. What about you, at least since you joined Barcelona?
"Since I got here to Barcelona, for sure, I've thought about it. I just want to get this year what I couldn't get last year. For us to have ended up with the number one seed going into the playoffs, then not make it, we didn't play as we should have. I took a lot of the hit on that, but I just think back, learn from it and get better. I want to show now what I learned by getting past this round."
In fact, your Euroleague career has taken you step by step upward, from the regular season only with Virtus Bologna, to the Top 16 with Cibona, to the playoffs with Maccabi. How does making the next logical step, the Final Four with Barcelona, sound to you?
"That'd be real big, because that's everybody's goal at this level. Not just to go to the Final Four, but to win it if we get there, especially since it's in Barcelona. It's been good that every year I got on a better team and got to play better myself. Like I said, I'd love to get to the Final Four in this city. It would be great for our team, and I am confident that if we make it, we'll win."