FC Barcelona Lassa survived a do-or-die situation in its best-of-five EuroLeague Playoffs series against Anadolu Efes Istanbul with an 82-72 home win in Game 4 to set up a do-or-die battle for the fourth and last Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four spot at Sinan Erdem Dome, Istanbul on Wednesday. After getting blown out in Game 3, one of the players who helped lift Barcelona off the mat in Game 4 was Victor Claver, who had 8 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists for a performance index rating of 20. Claver has experience in such situations. He helped his former team, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, down his current squad and qualify for the 2016 Final Four by winning Games 4 and 5. Experience always helps, as Claver told EuroLeague.net in this interview. "It is good to have the experience because we have been in this situation," Claver said. "We have to play with confidence, which is the way to win games like these."
Hello, Victor. It has been a long series between you guys and Efes. After four games in two weeks, is there any room for surprises? What can Game 5 go down to?
"The club has been chasing this goal for some time."
"Well, I think that, above all, it is going to come down to intensity. Whoever plays with higher intensity will probably win Game 5. In our case, we have to play tough defense, that is a critical key more than any tactical stuff. We have tried different defenses; some things worked well, some others didn't and we tried something different. Having different alternatives can help you during the game, but I don't think tactics will be the more critical issue."
All four games have been very different from each other. Does that unpredictability make Game 5 even more exciting?
"We knew it was going to be a balanced series; it is what everybody expected and it turned out to be that way. Each team is bouncing back strong after every loss. They will give everything they have to win the series at home, but we have confidence after doing a good job in Game 4."
Not every team loses by 28 at home and beats the same opponent 48 hours later. What did you talk about in between games?
"Above all, they played with really high intensity. We couldn't match that level of intensity and they thrashed us, especially after the 25th minute. There was only one team on the floor after that and this is unacceptable. We were all aware of the importance of Game 4 and played with character to win it. We got carried away at some point during Game 3; they were in a very good moment and nothing worked for us. I believe that if it had been a more decisive game, later in the series, we wouldn't have lost by so many points."
Barcelona only made 11 fouls in Game 3, but committed 24 in Game 4. How critical is that aggressiveness going into Game 5?
"Of course, the number of fouls you make tells something about you how tough you are playing. We cannot lose a quarter and make no fouls like we did in Game 3. We have to know how to use our fouls without being too aggressive or making unsportsmanlike ones. We have to know where the limit is."
You seem to be in a good moment - guarding anyone from '1' to '5' and helping the team in many ways. How comfortable do you feel in the team?
"I am doing a little bit of everything, yes, whatever the team needs at any moment. Like you said, I can try to play defense on smaller players and then take bigger ones if we switch. I believe this is good for the team and makes me feel comfortable. Having specific goals, especially on defense, helps me play with more intensity and be more active. That is always positive to do other things such as rebounding better or being more aggressive when I have the ball."
You have been in a Game 5 situation with Lokomotiv against Barcelona. What do you remember about it?
"I remember that we came off a big road win which allowed us to tie the series. Of course, it was a different situation, but we were also in a do-or-die situation in Game 4 and won, just like now. We knew that by taking the series back home, we couldn't let that chance go away. They had the lead until the final minutes, but were the favorites and probably had the pressure. We played better, especially in the fourth quarter."
Chris Singleton had a terrific Game 5 in 2016 and is your teammate again. Is that a good sign? How critical was his performance that day?
"It is funny, we were talking about it the other day. We looked back at that series and talked about me having a good Game 4 and him playing great in Game 5, leading the team in the final minutes. It is good to have the experience because we have been in this situation. We have to play with confidence, which is the way to win games like these."
Barcelona has not been to a Final Four since 2014, but half of your team has Final Four experience. Can that be an extra motivation for you - to try to reach the big event again?
"It will not be a problem for us to play there. We have won there this season."
"Personally, it is a great motivation. I already had the experience with Lokomotiv and would love to be back with Barcelona. After a couple of seasons here, now we finally have a chance. It comes down to one game and the winner makes it to the Final Four. The club has been chasing this goal for some time, and we have to be aware of this opportunity and not let it slide."
The game has been sold out since the moment tickets went on sale. After a long series, can the home-court advantage be a key factor in this do-or-die game?
"It is obvious that playing at home, they will feel more comfortable, mainly because our fans gave us unbelievable support at Palau Blaugrana. It will not be a problem for us to play there. We have won there this season and know what we have to do. We will try to upset them."
When you played good defense on their guards, Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin, you won. How important will this be in Game 5?
"No doubt about it. They depend a lot on these two players and how they feel in every game. Not only are they good scorers, but they also generate options for everyone else. They are the key players to their offense and we have to pay special attention to them. We cannot let them catch fire as Larkin did in Game 3 and score a lot of consecutive points. We have to try to stop them all 40 minutes and that will give us better chances to control the game."