CSKA Moscow rallied from 11 points behind late in the fourth quarter to defeat Union Olimpija 77-80 in overtime and ensure that the game was the last in the long history of Euroleague nights at legendary Tivoli Arena in Ljubljana, Slovenia. CSKA raised its record to 7-2 and will still vie for first place in Group C while Olimpija fell to 1-8 and elimination. Olimpija would have had it difficult to make the Top 16 even with a win, but the outcome assured that its fans won't see another Euroleague game in the Slovenian capital until after the team moves to 12,500-seat Stozice Arena for next season. It was looking like a perfect goodbye for the home fans when Olimpija led 62-51 with a little over 4 minutes left, but CSKA scored the last 11 points of the quarter, including Trajan Langdon's game-tying triple with 18 seconds left to force overtime. There, J.R. Langdon scored 8 points and Victor Keyru 5 as foul-plagued CSKA hung on for the victory. Langdon led the winners with 20 points while Holden had 17 and Viktor Khryapa 14 to go with 14 rebounds. Olimpija got 18 points and 7 rebounds from Matt Walsh, 13 from Sani Becirovic and 10 each from Saso Ozbolt and Gasper Vidmar.
Zoran Planinic posted up for the game's first basket. Ozbolt answered driving to the rim off a steal to make it 2-2. Khryapa hit free throws following an offensive rebound then posted up for a basket. Next, consecutive blocks sent Sasha Kaun long for a fastbreak layup to make it 2-8. Ozbolt stopped the bleeding for Olimpija with a wing triple, but Planinic's assist to an open Kaun put CSKA up 5-10. Fouls started to hurt the visitors, however, as after just 5 minutes, Planinic sat with 3 and Kaun with 2. Becirovic hit free throws at 7-10, but Khryapa answered with a backdoor basket and Andrey Vorontsevich hit a triple. When Langdon then added his first basket, it was 7-17 CSKA and Olimpija took a timeout. Vladimir Golubovic hit free throws for the hosts, who then got a boost off the bench from Dusan Djordjevic and Walsh, whose back-to-back triples in the final minute tightened the score to 15-16 at the end of one quarter.
Neither team could find the basket in the second quarter until Walsh scored from the top of the lane to make it 17-18. CSKA newcomer Courtney Sims answered with a fadeaway in the lane. Next, after another big block on defense, Sims finished a break with a dunk that Uros Slokar matched with a put-back. CSKA kept going inside, this time to Kaun, whose free throw made it 19-23. Holden then blasted from downtown as the visitors threatened to take over, but Becirovic copied him with a triple on the break and Edin Bavcic added free throws as Olimpija suddenly closed within 24-26. Holden kept Olimpija at bay with free throws that Vidmar matched with a layup. A triangle alley-oop from Langdon to Khryapa to Kaun for a nice dunk kept CSKA a step ahead as Holden erased free throws by Vidmar for a 28-32 halftime lead for the visitors.
Olimpija came out of the break with some mega-defense, holding CSKA to a single free throw during 5 minutes in which Vidmar rose to the occasion with 6 points in a row to give the hosts a 34-33 lead. After Langdon took it back with free throws, Walsh blasted a triple for Olimpija. Sims answered with a layup to tie it up, but Walsh and Becirovic combined on 3 free throws to put Olimpija up 40-37. Vorontsevic had 1 free throw against 3 for Golubovic and Bavcic before Jaka Klobucar put his stamp on Olimpija's take-over run with a triple. By the time Walsh returned with a two-poin basket, Olimpija had a double-digit lead of 49-38 after 30 minutes and CSKA had just completed its worst-scoring quarter of the entire decade.
After free throws by Planinic started the final quarter, Becirovic hit a running one-hander off the glass, to the crowd's delight. Langdon appeared for a jumper at the top of the lane, followed by a tip-in of a fastbreak to pull CSKA within 51-44 and prompt an Olimpija timeout. Becirovic fed Klobucar in the corner for a hug triple that expanded the lead to double digits, 54-44. A quiet couple minutes ended with Khryapa blasting a triple from the wing, but Becirovic again drew the defense and set up Ozbolt alone for a three-pointer. Vidmar was called for his fifth foul, a technical, for tripping Kaun in the paint. Langdon made the technical free throws and soon added 2 more to cut the difference to 57-51 with under 5 minutes left. Again, Becirovic answered, drawing Planinic's fifth foul on a triple attempt and hitting all 3 free throws at 60-51. When CSKA then turned the ball over, Ozbolt raced the otherway with a layup for the double-digit lead, 62-51. After Langdon hit free throws and Holden a layup, Becirovic drew another fifth foul, that of Kaun. But CSKA was unbowed, as an offensive rebound allowed Khryapa to drive, hit the layup and a free throw for a four-point game, 62-58, going into the final 2 minutes. Victor Keyru's 1 of 2 free throws cut the difference by another point. Then, after an Olimpija miss, with 18 seconds left, Langdon got open on the break for one of his picture-perfect three-pointers to tie it up, 62-62. Olimpija had the last possession, but Ozbolt's open triple on the buzzer missed, sending the game to OT.
The drama continues as Walsh and Holden traded triples to open the extra period. When Langdon put CSKA in front for the first time in ages with a quick jumper, Golubovic answered with a pair of nifty inside baskets. Khryapa had one of his own, a reverse, on the next play, however, to tie 69-69. Slokar drew a foul on a double-team, sending Khryapa to the bench with 5 fouls, but then missed both free throws. Holden punished that mistake with a triple on the wing for a 69-72 CSKA lead with 1:12 left to play. Walsh's free throws made it 71-72 before Holden found Keyru in the corner for another huge triple. But with 21 seconds left, Bavcic answered from the other corner at 74-75. Olimpija fouled Holden with 11 seconds left, and he made both. Becirovic matched them with 8 seconds left. Next, Keyru hit 2 of 2, with almost 8 seconds still left. Now, Walsh hit the first free throw, but in attempting to miss, airballed the second. Langdon went back to the line to seal a remarkable comeback that kept CSKA's chances for first place alive and kicking.
Thursday, January 7, 2010