|CSKA Moscow became the main candidate to win Top 16 Group H by thrashing Montepaschi Siena 95-71 in the Russian capital on Wednesday night. CSKA leads Group H with a 3-1 record and will reach the Quarterfinal Playoffs with a win in either of its two remaining games. Montepaschi falls to 2-2 and a tie for second place. The Italian champs face a critical home game against Cibona next week. CSKA put on a masterful second-half show exemplified by tying a Top 16 record with 17 three-point shots made. Matjaz Smodis paced the winners with a season-high 22 points. J.R. Holden added 18 on 5-for-7 three-point shooting, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Erazem Lorbek posted a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds, Trajan Langdon also had 14 points, Ramunas Siskauskas got 13 while Terence Morris contributed 10 for CSKA, which buried 17 of 27 triples and outrebounded Montepaschi 34-22. Henry Domercant led Montepaschi with 19 points. Terrell McIntyre added 15 and 7 assists while Romain Sato had 11 points for the guests, who trailed 45-44 at halftime. CSKA dramatically improved its defense after the break and buried 7 three-pointers in the third quarter for a 77-55 lead. CSKA also managed to overcome its 18-point loss in Siena for any potential tiebreaker and cruised to an outstanding win.
McIntyre got Montepaschi going with free throws, as CSKA tried to open the court in the early going with Smodis and Lorbek together on court. McIntyre struck from downtown that Smodis answered with a basket-plus-foul to get CSKA within 3-5. Siskauskas buried a corner three-pointer but a backdoor layup by Domercant restored a 6-7 Montepaschi edge. Benjamin Eze shined with a reverse layup and had a huge block on Lorbek. Meanwhile, a triple by Shaun Stonerook boosted the guests' margin to 6 after a 0-7 run. Lorbek scored down low and Langdon added a stop-and-pop jumper to keep CSKA close. Siskauskas took over with an off-balance driving layup, but McIntyre kept Montepaschi ahead, 12-15. CSKA dominated the offensive boards and Langdon tied the game with his first three-pointer. Sato took over with a power layup while Eze scored around the basket for a 15-19 Montepaschi margin. Morris followed a free throw with a bomb from downtown to tie the game at 19-19 at the end of an exciting first quarter.
Rimas Kaukenas buried a wide open three-pointer. Holden answered from downtown, but Kaukenas added a wild driving layup to put Montepaschi back ahead, 22-25. CSKA struggled to find open shots while more free throws by Domercant made it a 5-point game. The hosts called timeout and Lorbek stepped up with a jump hook and a three-pointer to tie it at 27-27. Domercant rescued Montepaschi with a power layup, but a three-pointer by Smodis gave CSKA its first lead, 30-29. Langdon swished a five-meter jumper and a layup by Smodis capped a 12-2 CSKA run. Ksistof Lavrinovic sank free throws, but a put-back basket by Lorbek and a three-pointer by Holden boosted CSKA's edge to 39-31. McIntyre shined with a floating layup that Viktor Khryapa matched with a big dunk. Montepaschi improved with a 2-3 zone defense while foul shots by Kaukenas and Domercant brought the guests back to life, 41-37. Domercant sank a corner triple, but Lorbek nailed a jumper for a 43-40 CSKA edge. McIntyre buried a three-pointer in transition before free throws by Smodis restored a 45-44 CSKA edge at halftime.
CSKA improved its defense right after the break, holding Montepaschi scoreless for more than three minutes. Meanwhile, Smodis beat the shot clock with a five-meter jumper and fed Langdon for an easy layup, good for a 49-44 CSKA lead. Siskauskas took over with a catch-and-shoot three-pointer while Langdon also downed one from downtown to make it 55-44 after a 10-0 run. Sato stepped up with a layup-plus-foul that Smodis matched with a corner triple. Montepaschi called timeout, but Holden joined the three-point shootout to make it a 14-point game. McIntyre sank free throws and Kaukenas added a layup, but another corner triple by Holden and free throws by Zoran Planinic kept CSKA way ahead, 66-51. Domercant nailed a jumper but Morris answered from downtown and Lorbek scored inside for a 71-53 CSKA margin. Domercant kept pacing Montepaschi with foul shots but Morris buried another three-pointer and Langdon added an outstanding driving layup to break the game open, 77-55, after 30 minutes.
The outcome was already clear, but both teams fought for point differential because Montepaschi downed CSKA 74-56 earlier this month. Montepaschi could not find the way to the basket and Smodis took over with back-to-back layups for a 26-point CSKA margin. Montepaschi tried to stop the game with a timeout and Lavrinovic nailed a three-pointer that Domercant followed with a six-meter jumper for an 82-60 deficit. CSKA called timeout, but kept finding it hard to score until Siskauskas dunked in transition. Sato answered with a jumper and soon added an open triple to get Montepaschi within 84-67. Siskauskas rescued CSKA with a three-pointer that Holden followed with a lightning quick layup to restore a 89-67 CSKA margin with two minutes to go. Another three-pointer by Smodis sealed the outcome, as all CSKA fans were already celebrating that their team is on the right path to reaching the Quarterfinal Playoffs.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009