| Despite injury and its sole tough loss a week earlier, CSKA Moscow thoroughly outplayed visiting Panionios On Telecoms to a blowout 93-61 victory on Wednesday to become the first team from Group D to clinch a berth in the Top 16. Excellent ball movement and great defense helped the Euroleague champs to bounce back from last week's loss in Milano to improve their record to 6-1, while Panionios fell to 3-4 and remains in the thick of the Top 16 race. With J.R. Holden still injured, Nikos Zisis started the point guard and dished 8 of the CSKA's impressive 27 team-assists while five of his teammates scored in double figures. Viktor Khryapa replaced injured starter Ramunas Siskausas and collected 14 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. Matjaz Smodis led the winners with 15 points, Trajan Langdon matched Khryapa with 14, Erazem Lorbek added 13 and Terrence Morris had 10. Panionios tried every kind of defense, but couldn't contain CSKA. The bright spot for the visitors was 15 points from newly-signed forward Demos Dikoudis, a former CSKA player, while Branko Cvetkovic had 13 and Ivan Zoroski 10.
Lonny Baxter and Aaron Miles scored twice inside for an early 2-5 Panionios lead before Zisis led the hosts on an 8-0 run as Lorbek, Khryapa and Smodis joined the scoring. After Dikoudis gave the guests another bucket inside, Smodis kept going with a triple and a three-point play the hard way, forcing Panionios head coach Aleksandar Trifunovic to call a timeout at 16-7. Cvetkovic made Trifunovic a little happier with a three-pointer and Dikoudis added 2 free throws, but Khryapa scored 4 straight for CSKA and Zisis hit from downtown for the first double-digit lead, 23-13. Panionios managed to contain CSKA better by switching to zone defense, but on the quarter's last possession Zoran Planinic found a wide-open Morris, who dunked to stretch CSKA's lead to 29-17.
CSKA took advantage of close misses by Panionios to start the second quarter with another sizable run of 9-3 fuelled by inside baskets by Khryapa and Savrasenko. Panionios continued struggling, its only basket discounted as having come after the shot-clock buzzer, while Lorbek attacked the paint with hook shots to boost CSKA's advantage to 40-20. Ivan Zoroski stepped up then with 4 points for the guests and Dikoudis muscled his way to draw two fouls and hit 3 free throws, but Panionios just couldn't find a way to prevent CSKA from scoring as Zisis found Langdon in the corner and Smodis on top of the key for a pair of sweet three-pointers. When the halftime buzzer sounded, CSKA was in control at 50-31.
Zisis finished an inbounds-play with a baseline jumper to start the second half and Miles answered for Panionios with a driving layup, but then Langdon dished to an open Smodis on a pick-and-roll play and to Khryapa on the fastbreak. Though Dikoudis and Ioannis Kalampokis scored for the visitors, Lorbek couldn't be stopped by the Panionios big men. He used an array of moves to drop 6 points in an 8-0 CSKA run that widened the difference to 66-37. CSKA also switched to a higher gear on defense, stealing and deflecting the ball multiple times and otherwise forcing Panionios players into tough shots. What's more, when the visitors got near the basket, Khryapa was ready to help, blocking 2 shots in the quarter. CSKA was in front by 70-41 with 10 minutes to go.
In the final quarter, Panionios tried working on its zone some more, but this time CSKA was ready: Planinic, Morris and Alexey Shved punished the guests with three shots from behind the arc, ending any doubt about the outcome and making way for CSKA head coach Ettore Messina to start using more of his bench. The visitors did not quit playing, however, as Cvetkovic scored 5 straight points, Zoroski added 4 and Kendall hammered a dunk on a fastbreak. Messina used a timeout to talk with his young substitutes and they responded by finishing the game with a 12-6 run as the Moscow crowd celebrated a 93-61 win together with a ticket to the Top 16.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008