Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens is close to mathematically clinching a playoffs spot as it comes into Round 27 ranked sixth with a 15-11 record. Panathinaikos has won its last nine home games and just beat top-ranked Real Madrid 88-82 in the Greek capital. Its best player on the floor was once again versatile big man Chris Singleton, who finished the game with 21 points and 9 rebounds. This is Singleton's second EuroLeague season, but he is making sure he is noticed. Singleton helped Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar make it to the Final Four last season, and has been nearly unstoppable with Panathinaikos this year, averaging 12.3 points on 48.2% three-point shooting (41-of-85), 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks in 26 games. He ranks 10th in average performance index ranting at 16.2 per game. Panathinaikos has four games left, hosting EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and CSKA Moscow and trips to Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz and Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. Singleton just wants to keep winning and try to take Panathinaikos to the Final Four for the first time since 2012, as he told Javier Gancedo of EuroLeague.net in this interview. "It was great being in a Final Four with Lokomotiv. We had a great season and nobody expected us to be there, but we deserved it," Singleton said. "And of course, I will do my best to be there also with Panathinaikos."
First of all, congratulations on beating Real Madrid. You had a good game, but what allowed you to beat such as deep, talented team?
"We were really focused the whole game, and then we were able to slow them down. We got the keys of their car. I think we did a good job defensively on that and tried to make everything tougher for them."
It was your ninth consecutive home win. What makes you so strong in front in your fans?
"I think that just the energy of the fans gives us a home-court advantage. I think it is great to hear so many people scream your name as you enter the game, like our fans do. It is truly a joy playing for them."
You have been there for some months. How different is it to play in the EuroLeague for Lokomotiv as opposed to a giant like Panathinaikos?
"The difference probably was how much people enjoy basketball here compared to Lokomotiv. I think Lokomotiv did a great job last year, we loved playing there and giving it all on the court. Loko was a smaller team, but it was good to play for them, their fans were great, but here in Panathinaikos you really see and enjoy their excitement, how much people are into basketball and how it changes their lives. Personally, I just try to play basketball as best as I can."
How great is it to have James Gist back in your lineup?
"His leadership means a lot to this team. He is like my brother, I really like being on the court with him, but overall, he makes us a complete team, a better team."
You seem to be very comfortable playing for Coach Pascual. What is the best thing about him?
"I guess his creativity and all the things he has done for us, especially how he is able to use everyone. Now, he is still seeing how he can change things up for us, against our opponents, which makes us an interesting team."
You played alongside Anthony Randolph in Lokomotiv, mainly at power forward, but now you play center almost fulltime with Panathinaikos. Has it been difficult to adjust?
"In Lokomotiv, I played power forward and center. It has been a good transition. The game in Europe is a lot different than in the NBA, especially because they use smaller people at the center position. It is okay, my transition has been good to me so far. I don't have problems as long as I am on the court. I have been playing with Ioannis Bourousis, too, who is more of an inside, post-up player. I just try to reach him as much as possible, having another big body in there, and defensively, I know I am always going to have his back."
It is a two-game week, which starts with a home game against EA7 Emporio Armani Milan. Does the fact that they have been eliminated from the playoff picture make them more dangerous?
"Well, I try to win every game. I think I am a bad loser, so I try to win everything. With teams that have nothing to play for, that makes them more dangerous. They have nothing to lose and you have to lay it all on the line."
After that, you will play against Baskonia on the road. How much are you looking forward to this game?
"It was a very close game in our place, so we know what to expect. I think we have to stay poised the whole game and be confident. We will try to make it close at the end and see what we can do then. It is a tough place to play, and we have some players who were there last year. We have to go out and do what we can to secure the win."
Panathinaikos is one of the most athletic teams we have seen in many years, up there with Anadolu Efes. How do you use that to your advantage?
"Going forward, I think we have to be more aggressive and try to be everywhere. We know we have an athletic team and like I said, we have to be poised and confident in what we do."
You reached the Final Four with Lokomotiv last season. Does that motivate you even more to go back with Panathinaikos this season?
"It was a great memory. It was great being in a Final Four with Lokomotiv. We had a great season and nobody expected us to be there, but we deserved it. And of course, I will do my best to be there also with Panathinaikos."