CSKA Moscow became the Group A champion by downing Tau Ceramica 70-62 in its first Euroleague game at the 13,000-seat Sports Palace in the Russian capital on Wednesday night. CSKA improved to 11-2 in Group A and locked up first place, becoming a top-seeded team in the upcoming Top 16 Draw in front of a sellout crowd that included six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen, Russian basketball legends Sergei Panov and Sergei Bazarevich and 2006 Euroleague champion David Vanterpool. Meanwhile, Tau Ceramica dropped to 8-5. J.R. Holden paced the winners with 19 points while Trajan Langdon had 11 for CSKA. Igor Rakocevic led Tau with 21 points. Tiago Splitter added 12 while Will McDonald had 10 for the guests. Rakocevic paced Tau in the opening half, as a free throw by Pete Mickeal gave the guests its last lead, 25-26. Marcus Goree and Zakhar Pashutin allowed CSKA to get a 34-29 halftime edge. Just as in each and every home game, CSKA improved its defense after the break, while Ramunas Siskauskas, Langdon and Holden helped the hosts to break the game open, 56-42, after 30 minutes. Splitter and Rakocevic brought Tau within 66-62 with 22 seconds but it was too little, too late for the guests.
McDonald got Tau going with a left-handed jump hook as CSKA struggled to score in the opening two minutes. It didn't last long, however, as Holden and David Andersen quickly stroke from downtown for a 6-2 CSKA lead. The hosts had started to dominated the game with their trademark man-to-man defense. Meanwhile, Langdon followed a baseline jumper with an open triple, sending Tau to call timeout at 11-2. Tau has been scoreless for four minutes before Rakocevic beat the shot clock with a seven-meter bomb. Holden scored off a midcourt steal that Rakocevic matched with a driving layup for a 13-7 Tau deficit. McDonald sank a baseline jumper, but Siskauskas answered with a driving basket to keep CSKA ahead at 15-9. McDonald kept pacing Tau with free throws and Rakocevic added his second three-pointer in a 0-7 run that Mirza Teletovic capped with a running jumper as Tau regained the lead, 15-16. Andersen followed a jumper with a two-handed dunk to restore a 19-16 CSKA edge after 10 minutes.
Theo Papaloukas provided a highlight with a smooth move in the low post, but Rakocevic immediately bettered it with a wild four-point play that got Tau within 21-20. Holden buried a long two-pointer before Gabe Mouneke fed Simas Jasaitis for a driving layup. Tau was all over the place on defense now, while free throws by Rakocevic gave his team a 23-25 edge. Langdon hit a jumper off a screen, but CSKA kept finding it hard to score despite finding open shots. Mickeal made a free throw to restore a 25-26 Tau edge. CSKA called a much-needed timeout, as Tau tried twin point guards with Pablo Prigioni and Zoran Planinic on court. Papaloukas sank a fade-away jumper and Goree added free throws, but Teletovic banked in a turnaround jumper to tie the game at 29-29. Goree nailed a six-meter shot and Pashutin fired in a three-pointer from the corner to restore a 34-29 CSKA lead as both teams headed to the locker rooms.
Holden finished a long second-chance CSKA possession with a three-pointer, as Tau struggled to score after the break. The guests went scoreless for two minutes until Planinic fed Jasaitis for a wild dunk. Holden had a big block on Rakocevic and fed Siskauskas for an open triple, good for a 40-31 CSKA lead. Tau tried to regain the game momentum quickly with a timeout, but free throws by Goree gave CSKA its first double-digit lead, 42-32. McDonald stepped up with a jump hook that Langdon erased with a power layup. Siskauskas, now playing power forward, hit free throws and by the time Holden fired in a bomb from downtown, CSKA had a 15-point lead. Splitter tried to change things with a layup-plus-foul and a dunk, but Pashutin answered with an easy driving layup and Siskauskas had a no-look assist to Anatoliy Kashirov. Prigioni scored from downtown but Kashirov matched it with a three-point play to restore a 56-42 CSKA lead after three quarters.
Splitter tried to ignite a Tau comeback with an off-balanced basket as the guests started to dominate the defensive boards. Rakocevic added a mid-range jumper, however Holden sank a seven-meter triple to give CSKA some fresh air at 59-46. Sergi Vidal answered from downtown and Gabe Mouneke nailed another one from the same spot to bring the guests within single digits, 61-52. CSKA quickly called a timeout, but Splitter's three-point play brought Tau even closer, 61-56, after a 0-7 run. CSKA had been scoreless for almost three minutes, so Papaloukas slowed down the tempo to adjust his team's offense. Langdon sank a floating jumper that Rakocevic matched with free throws for a 63-58 Tau deficit with 2:11 remaining. Holden sealed the outcome with a key three-pointer and even though McDonald and Rakocevic brought Tau within 66-62 with 22 seconds to go, the guests ran out of time to complete their comeback.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008