It a nail-biting game that went down to the wire, AXA FC Barcelona made it to the Quarterfinal Playoffs by edging CSKA Moscow 64-62 in front of a sellout at Palau Blaugrana in Group G on Thursday night. Barcelona finished second in Group G with a 3-3 record due to its one-point tie-break advantage against Unicaja. Meanwhile, CSKA dropped to 4-2 but was already the Group G champion. Jaka Lakovic led the winners with 14 points and even when no-one else in Barcelona scored in double digits, 5 other players finished the game with at least 7 points. Victor Khryapa and Ramunas Siskauskas each had 13 points for CSKA, Trajan Langdon had 12 while Theo Papaloukas dished 10 assists for CSKA. In fact, Papaloukas broke the all-time Top 16 assists record by dishing 42 in this phase. Barcelona opened the game with a 13-2 run but CSKA already got the lead, 15-16, at the end of the first quarter. The game turned into a intense, thrilling battle from now on and Ersan Ilyasova dunked it for a 64-61 Barcelona edge with 7.1 seconds to go. Siskauskas drew a foul and missed the second on purpose, but CSKA got the ball back. It all came down to the final shot but J. R. Holden, who went scoreless tonight, missed a corner triple at the buzzer.
Alex Acker got Barcelona going with a layup-plus-foul while Gianluca Basile beat the buzzer with a bomb from way downtown for a 6-0 Barcelona lead. CSKA quickly called timeout but Fran Vazquez followed a jump hook with a layup to cap a 10-0 Barcelona run. CSKA had been scoreless for more than 4 minutes until Matjaz Smodis made free throws but Basile buried his second three-pointer for a 13-2 Barcelona lead. Smodis kept pacing CSKA with a triple while Tomas Van den Spiegel dunked it to bring the guests back to life, 14-7. Barcelona struggled to score and did not find any open shots now. Meanwhile, Siskauskas made free throws for a five-point CSKA deficit, 14-9. Jordi Trias sank a foul shot but Khryapa answered from downtown while Langdon added free throws to get CSKA back in the game, 15-14. More foul shots by Khryapa completed the guests' comeback, 15-16, after 10 minutes.
Siskauskas shined with a left-handed layup that capped a 2-16 run and gave CSKA a 15-18 edge early in the second quarter. Denis Marconato got the crowd involved with a dunk but Van den Spiegel copied him in the other end. Marconato scored again in the low post but David Andersen dunked it to keep CSKA ahead, 19-22. Acker and Siskauskas traded baskets but Marconato tied the game with a three-point play, 24-24. CSKA had troubles to score but kept shining in defense, just as usual. As such, both teams went scoreless for 2 minutes until Siskauskas downed a free throw. Acker beat the shot clock with a left-handed power layup. Marcus Goree provided a highlight with a fast break dunk that Jaka Lakovic erased with an acrobatic layup. Nikos Zisis and Mario Kasun traded free throws while Smodis put CSKA back ahead, 29-30. Lakovic sank a corner triple that Khryapa erased in the other end for a 32-33 CSKA edge at halftime.
Landgon nailed a three-pointer right after the break, as Barcelona started to miss open shots from downtown. The hosts went scoreless for almost 3 minutes until Roger Grimau stepped up with a driving basket, but Andersen fired in his trademark mid-range jumper for a 34-38 CSKA lead. Barcelona called timeout but CSKA kept its momentum going with great defense. Vazquez scored inside to get Barcelona going, pushed by an incredible crowd. Meanwhile, Pepe Sanchez tied the game with a long two-pointer, 38-38. Khryapa silenced the crowd with his third triple and then matched Grimau's driving layup with free throws for a 40-43 CSKA edge. Trias buried a five-meter shot while Grimau added another driving basket to put Barcelona back ahead, 43-44. Van den Spiegel took over with a big basket in the low post but Lakovic fired in his second three-pointer and added a layup-plus-foul for a 50-45 Barcelona lead. CSKA called timeout and Papaloukas fed Langdon for a buzzer-beating triple that got CSKA within 50-48 after three quarters.
Ilyasova took over with a put-back layup early in fourth quarter but Siskauskas bettered it with a triple in transition while Papaloukas scored in penetration to put CSKA back ahead, 52-53. The game turned into a physical battle as Barcelona made the most out of it, not allowing any easy shots. Lakovic beat the shot clock with a huge triple to restore a 55-53 edge with 5 minutes to go. Vazquez had a key block on Andersen that sent the crowd to their feet. Andersen took revenge with a layup in CSKA's next possession for a 55-55 tie. Ilyasova made a free throw, as CSKA opted to slow down the game tempo without much success. Lakovic fed Ilyasova for an easy layup that gave the hosts a 58-55 edge with 2 minutes to go. Vazquez stepped up with a second-chance layup but Langdon sank an unbelievable triple for a 60-58 CSKA deficit already in the final minute. Langdon made a free throw with 21.2 seconds remaining. Basile scored off a timeout, Siskauskas made free throws while Ilyasova dunked with 7.1 seconds remaining for a 64-61 Barcelona edge. He missed the free throw that came with it, but Siskauskas drew a foul with 2.6 seconds, hit the first attempt and missed the second on purpose but a double foul on Vazquez and Smodis gave CSKA the ball back at 64-62. Holden missed from the left corner at the buzzer, allowing all Barcelona fans to celebrate that their team made it to the Quarterfinal Playoffs!
Thursday, March 20, 2008