Reigning champion CSKA Moscow started the Quarterfinal Playoffs by holding off Partizan 56-47 in a record-setting defensive battle in the Russian capital on Tuesday. The champs grabbed a 1-0 lead in the series and will try to double it in Game 2 on Thursday before the best-of-five series heads to Serbia. CSKA set the tone by holding Partizan to just 3 first-period points – a new single-quarter defensive record for playoff games. The 47 points CSKA limited Partizan to for the game was a playoff defensive record and CSKA’s 56 marked the fewest by a home team in the playoffs. The game's cumulative score of 103 points was also a playoff record for fewest points. Erazem Lorbek scored the game's first 6 points, had 10 of CSKA's first 19 and finished with a game-high 16 points for the champs. Viktor Khryapa had a superb overall performance, collecting 8 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks, always being at the right place CSKA was in trouble. Uros Tripkovic came off the bench lead Partizan with 12 points. CSKA never trailed, but Partizan did make a game of it in the fourth quarter when it climbed to within 7 before Khryapa and CSKA regained the momentum and held on for the win.
Khryapa came up with a steal on Partizan's first possession, and then Matjaz Smodis dished to Lorbek, who opened the scoring with a long two-pointer. The defenses were stronger than offences over the next few minutes, as only Lorbek was warm. He made a hook in the paint and a baseline jumper for a 6-0 CSKA lead. Partizan just couldn't buy a basket, and even when Milenko Tepic seemed to be free for a layup, Khryapa appeared from nowhere to deny him with a monster block. Finally Tripkovic made a tough triple off the dribble to make it 6-3. J.R. Holden responded with a long shot just inside of the three-point line. Lorbek beat Partizan's zone with another jump shot before Ramunas Siskauskas stole the ball and drew an unsportsmanlike foul. He made both free throws to widen the advantage to 12-3. CSKA continued to play perfect defense, not allowing the guests a single open look. Zoran Planinic split free throws, and it was 13-3 after the first 10 minutes.
Planinic started the second quarter with a fastbreak dunk, before Novica Velickovic connected for Partizan's second three-pointer to cut it to 15-6. Trajan Langdon hit a two-pointer, but Velickovic was ready with another triple from the left corner. Lorbek came through with a tough turnaround jumper to reach 10 individual points - more than half of the hosts' 19 and 1 more than the guests' total. Khryapa pulled downed an offensive rebound and made a perfect power move for an easy layup. Tripkovic finished a Partizan fastbreak, but Khryapa found Lorbek with a beautiful no-look assist and the big man put CSKA in front at 23-11. Smodis scored his first points with a triple before Tripkovic hit a two-pointer and split free throws at the other end. Khryapa continued to be everywhere, this time drawing a charge. Both teams started to play defense that was a little too aggressive and after Langdon and Smodis made 4 three throws for CSKA and Milenko Tepic a couple for Partizan, the score was 30-16. Tepic scored on a tough drive, and Aleksandar Rasic ended the first half with more free throws to make it 30-20.
Lorbek remained the center of attention at the start of the second half, grabbing an offensive rebound and netting another hook. Siskauskas punished a Partizan technical foul with 2 free throws and Smodis made a layup for CSKA's sixth point in less than a minute. Zarko Rakocevic muscled in a put-back to cut it to 36-22, but Khryapa made a put-back of his own at the other end. Stephane Lasme drew 2 fouls on Smodis and went 1-for-2 from the free throw line. Rasic stole the ball and finished with a layup in transition, but Terence Morris beat Partizan with a drive that made it 40-25. Razic found Slavko Vranes with a perfect dish. The visitors' zone distracted CSKA's offense, but on the other hand made defensive rebounding difficult for Partizan. Nikos Zisis matched a shot by Tripkovic with 2 free throws, and it was 43-29. After Jan Vesely made a bucket, Zisis added another free throw. Morris stood his ground against Velickovic on the last possession of the third quarter to end it at 43-31.
The fourth quarter started just like the previous one - with a Lorbek hook. Vesely worked hard to get the position and make a three-point play inside. Partizan played excellent defense, but committed offensive fouls on back-to-back possessions. Lasme flew in for a breathtaking acrobatic basket and continued to draw fouls on the hosts' big men, forcing Morris into his fourth and Smodis to his third foul. Vesely came through with a put-back dunk to trim the score to 45-38 with six minutes left. Tepic matched a basket by Khryapa and then had a look at an open three-pointer that would have made it a 4-point game. But Tepic missed, and though Lasme got the rebound, Holden stole the ball and found a cutting Khryapa for a 49-40 CSKA lead. Velickovic went to the line, but missed both free throws, and Khryapa dished to an open Langdon at the other end. Tripkovic hit another jumper, and the scoreboard showed 51-42. Siskauskas managed to get free on three on the wing and nailed the triple. Lasme made 2 free throws, but the guest were running out of time, as it was 54-44 with two minutes to go. Holden held the ball to kill some time, got fouled and didn't miss from the line. Rakocevic scored on a hook, but though Razic earned a trip to the line, the visitors had only 28 seconds to deny a 56-47 CSKA advantage. And the Russian crowd that knew that this was an impossible task already began celebrating.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009