CSKA Moscow had a strong start of 2008 and became the first team to mathematically advance to the Top 16 by downing Union Olimpija 74-57 in the Russian capital on Wednesday. CSKA improved to 9-1 and will at least keep a two-game advantage over everyone else in Group A. Meanwhile, Olimpija dropped to 3-7 but keeps slim chances to advance to the Top 16. CSKA now has a six-game advantage over Olimpija, enough to lock a Top 16 spot with 4 games to go in the regular season. David Andersen led the winners with 25 points and 8 rebounds. Trajan Langdon added 10 points and 7 rebounds for CSKA. Maurice Bailey led Olimpija with 15 points, Marko Milic added 12 while Sasa Doncic grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for the guests. Olimpija had a strong start, as defense allowed the guests to get a 6-13 lead early. Holden and Andersen stepped up to get CSKA back in the game and soon allowed the hosts to get a 34-28 halftime margin. A free throw by Langdon capped a 23-4 run that made it an 18-point game, 48-30, midway through the third quarter. Olimpija did not recover and CSKA cruised to yet another home win.
Both teams had a cold start, exchanging 5 turnovers in the opening minute. J.R. Holden got CSKA going with a free throw but Milic gave Olimpija its first lead, 1-2. Doncic buried a running triple from the top of the key but Ramunas Siskauskas answered from downtown to keep CSKA within 4-5. An unsportsmanlike foul on Milic allowed Langdon to put CSKA back ahead, 6-5. The hosts did not find their scoring rhythm, however, while Bailey joined the three-point shootout and Hasan Rizvic added a put-back basket for a 6-11 Olimpija edge. Doncic capped a 0-8 Olimpija run with a fast break layup that made coach Ettore Messina call timeout at 6-13, as all CSKA fans had already started to wonder. CSKA kept missing open shots, as it had troubles to beat the guests' aggressive defense. Meanwhile, Olimpija tried to run its offense through Miha Zupan without much success. Holden stepped up with a triple and fed Andersen for a mid-range jumper that made Olimpija call timeout at 11-13. Andersen hit free throws that capped a 7-0 run, allowing CSKA to tie the game at 13-13 after 10 minutes.
Milic took Theo Papaloukas one-on-one and scored in the low post to give Olimpija a 13-15 edge. CSKA kept having problems against Olimpija's 2-3 zone defense while Bailey shined with a driving layup that boosted the guests' lead to 13-17. Papaloukas buried a three-pointer while Marcus Goree provided a highlight with a fast break dunk to put CSKA back ahead, 18-17. Andersen scored in the paint while Papaloukas fed Nikos Zisis for a fast break layup that made coach Memi Becirovic ask for a timeout at 22-17, after a 9-0 run. Rizvic took over with a left-handed layup but Langdon answered from downtown to keep CSKA ahead, 25-19. Milic shined with a fast break dunk and soon added a power layup to keep Olimpija in the game, 25-23. Bailey capped with a 0-7 run with his second three-pointer, good for a 25-26 Olimpija edge. Andersen stepped up with back-to-back baseline jumpers but a reverse layup by an unstoppable Milic got Olimpija within 29-28. Andersen kept pacing CSKA with a layup while Holden sank a triple off the dribble to give CSKA some fresh air, 34-28, at halftime.
Just as expected, CSKA improved its defense right after the break. Meanwhile, Goree nailed a mid-range jumper to give his team a 36-28 margin. By the time Langdon made free throws, CSKA reached its first double-digit margin, 38-28. Olimpija went scoreless for more than 3 minutes until Chris Booker found his first points on a six-meter jumper. Andersen scored again in the low post, as CSKA now dominated the game with its trademark defense. Goree stepped up with a put-back layup while Andersen - who else? - added a three-point play that made Olimpija call a much-needed timeout, 45-30, midway through the third quarter. Andersen sank his trademark baseline jumper to make it a 17-point game, 47-30. Ronell Taylor tried to change things with a mid-range jumper and Bailey sank one from downtown to get the guests within 48-35. Doncic added a fast break layup to make CSKA call timeout at 48-37. Bailey scored off a steal to get Olimpija within single digits, 48-39, after a 0-9 run. Zisis and Siskauskas rescued CSKA with free throws while Andersen scored again for a 54-41 CSKA lead after 30 minutes.
Olimpija needed a quick comeback to return to the game but CSKA regained its momentum in defense. Meanwhile, Zisis scored in penetration for a 56-41 CSKA lead. The guests could not find the way to the basket, as CSKA held Olimpija scoreless for more than 2 minutes. Jasmin Hukic finished a long Olimpija offense with a corner three-pointer to give the guests some hope at 56-44. Andersen hit another jumper that Milic erased with an acrobatic layup. Papaloukas stepped up with a turnaround jumper that Bailey matched with free throws, but Olimpija only managed to trade baskets now. Langdon shined with a layup but Hukic nailed a triple off an Olimpija timeout for a 62-51 deficit. Papaloukas hit a mid-range jumper that Andersen followed with a second-chance basket to seal the outcome, 66-51, with 3 minutes to go. Papaloukas dunked it to seal CSKA's win in style, as all fans in the stands were already celebrating a big win that came with a Top 16 spot!
Wednesday, January 2, 2008