The Group B title they fought over all regular season remains up for grabs after Maccabi Tel Aviv pulled off a miracle 80-83 win over CSKA in Moscow on Thursday thanks to an amazing fall-away three-pointer at the buzzer by Anthony Parker. Everything seemed to be lost for the guests, who trailed by 13 in the final quarter, but an 1-8 run in the final 90 seconds boosted Maccabi to victory. Both teams are now tied at 10-3 atop the Group B standings after having made huge comebacks on each other's home floors to win by three points each. The next tiebreaker, should both finish the season with tied records next week, is total point differential, which currently favors CSKA. If neither team loses, however, both will head Top 16 groups, one as the group winner and the other as the top second-place team. Sarunas Jasikevicius led the winners with 25 points, 22 of them in the second half, including 5 of 9 three-pointers and 8 of 9 free throws. Nikola Vujcic had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Parker and Maceo Baston had 11 points each. Baston doubled up with 10 rebounds for the winners. Marcus Brown led the CSKA scorers with 20 points, while Mirsad Turkcan had 18 and 9 rebounds, J.R. Holden 12 and 5 assists and Sergei Panov 10, all in the third quarter, for the hosts.
CSKA coach Dusan Ivkovic surprised everyone by starting center Alexei Savrasenko, who slammed home the first basket of the game. Both teams struggled on offense early, as shot selection was poor and the defenses excelled. A layup by Vujcic, his second basket, gave Maccabi a 4-5 lead midway through the first quarter. Tal Burnstein scored again for Maccabi, but a three-pointer by Marcus Brown tied the game at 7-7 after 6 minutes. Both teams were tight during the first quarter, missing shots and commiting turnovers but CSKA took the lead after Khryapa drew a foul while shooting from beyond the arc and drilled his 3 free throws. That ignited an 8-2 run in which Brown and Turkcan scored one basket each, giving the hosts a 15-11 lead.. A carousel of free throws followed, as Parker and Brown exchanged two apiece, enough to give CSKA a 17-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. Maccabi had made just 5 of 14 shots while committing 5 turnovers.
To open the second quarter, Jasikevicius drilled a jumper, his first field goal after five attempts, but Maccabi was held at bay, as Turkcan made back-to-back layups to extend CSKA's lead to 21-16. Maccabi needed a go-to guy and Vujcic stepped up to score a layup and feed Burnstein for a mid-range jumper, enough to make it a one-point game at 21-20. The guests even managed to tie the game, 23-23, after a three-pointer by Parker, but Anton Yudin answered from downtown on the other end to restore CSKA's lead. Both teams exchanged baskets, but the hosts managed to keep a slim lead after free throws by Brown gave CSKA a 31-28 edge entering the final minute of the half. Maccabi had the final word, however, as a layup by Deon Thomas and a free throw by Jasikevicius were good enough to tie the game at 31-31 at halftime. It was not a good night for shooters so far, as CSKA made just 2 of 14 threes in the first half, Maccabi just 1 out of 5.
To open the second half, Maccabi took its first lead since the early going on a three-pointer by Jasikevicius which put the visitors up 31-34. That momentum didn't last long, however, as Sergei Panov and J.R. Holden drilled a shot each from downtown for CSKA. They were part of a 10-0 run in which Panov added a layup and Brown dunked it, enough to help CSKA regain the lead at 41-34. Maccabi called timeout and returned with a put-back by Vujcic and another three by Jasikevicius, but at 41-39, CSKA's fans did not have time to wonder. Panov stepped up with 5 consecutive points, igniting a game-breaking 11-1 run which extended CSKA's lead to 52-40 after a layup by Tarlac. An exchange of baskets by Brown and Vujcic followed. A triple by Holden was answered with a layup by Vujcic, but Maccabi's big man picked up his fourth foul soon after that. Meanwhile, free throws by Tarlac and a layup by Holden were good enough to give CSKA its biggest lead at 63-49, before Jasikevicius drilled his third three-pointer of the quarter to cut the difference to 63-52 after 30 minutes.
Things seemed to change little as Turkcan, with a put-back, gave CSKA a 65-52 lead to start the foruth quarter. Maccabi 's return started with Jasikevicius making a four-point play and drilling 2 more free throws to cut the local lead to 65-58. CSKA did not panic, as Holden made a mid-range jumper while Turkcan drilled a three to restore the hosts' double-digit lead at 70-60. Baston stepped up with back-to-back dunks for Maccabi, but Turkcan shot again from downtown to help CSKA stay out of trouble at 73-64. Jasikevicius hit his fifth triple while Shelef added a layup to make it four-point game at 73-69. After an exchange of baskets, a mid-range jumper by Vujcic and 2 free throws by Shelef helped Maccabi to come within 77-75 with 2 minutes left. Brown now answered for CSKA with a layup. Parker missed the second of two free throws, but Derrick Sharp came out of nowhere to grab the offensive board and score, making it a one-point game at 79-78 with seconds to go. Brown drew a foul but missed one of his free throws, then Vujcic tied the game at 80-80 and overtime seemed certain once Papaloukas missed a three-point shot that sailed out of bounds. But that left 2 seconds for Shelef to throw the ball to the other end, finding Parker on the wing, where he turned and made a fallaway three-pointer in front of two defenders right at the buzzer. A miracle comeback was complete in a game that became an instant classic in the Maccabi story.
Thursday, February 12, 2004