One of the most exciting Quarterfinal Playoffs clashes in recent history will be decided one way or another on Wednesday when CSKA Moscow hosts Olympiacos Piraeus in deciding Game 3 in the Russian capital. Olympiacos stunned CSKA in Game 1 74-76 on Lynn Greer’s buzzer-beating jump shot, but CSKA evened the score in Game 2 in Athens as the trio of Matjaz Smodis, Trajan Langdon and Ramunas Siskauskas shined in a 73-83 victory. Now both teams will pull out all the stops and try to put their best foot forward to clinch a spot at next month’s Final Four in Madrid. History favors CSKA, as not only have head coach Ettore Messina’s charges been to a record five consecutive Final Fours, but never before had the Russian champs lost a playoff game at home and the odds of that happening twice in eight days are slim. Furthermore, never before has a Euroleague Basketball series seen all the games go to the visiting team. On the other hand, the Reds have reasons for optimism. Head coach Panagiotis Giannakis’s charges have shown plenty of mental toughness recently, including winning their last three road games at some tough arenas. Additionally, Olympiacos forward Qyntel Woods has been hot lately on both ends of the floor and his Game 1 defensive showing against reigning Euroleague MVP Theo Papaloukas was a main reason for the outcome of that contest. However the Reds, who have battled injuries all season long, will be shorthanded again as Arvydas Macijauskas and Kostas Vasileadis are out against CSKA. A key statistic in the series thus far has been three-point shooting. CSKA was below its average with just 36.8% in its Game 1 loss, but made 54.5% in the Game 2 win. Meanwhile Olympiacos shot 50% from downtown in Moscow, but 37.5% in Athens. If any of the many sharpshooters on either side heats up in Game 3, it could prove to be a major factor between these defensive minded sides. CSKA will look to its experience to help get through this challenge as it can boast a roster with eight players that won the Euroleague title with the club two years ago. Olympiacos will look to Greer to lead the team, with Woods, Rod Blakney and reserves Georgios Printezis and Ioannis Bouroussis asked to rise to the occasion. All signs point to a tense and low-scoring defensive battle, however with so many excellent offensive players on the floor, one man’s brilliance can make the difference in a series whose outcome will shape two teams’ entire season.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008