CSKA Moscow survived one of the greatest semifinal games in Euroleague history to edge mighty Panathinaikos 66-64 in the opener of the 2012 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four at Sinan Erdem Arena in Istanbul. The game went down to the wire and the Greens had a chance to tie it – or win it – on the last possession, but CSKA’s rock-solid defense denied the Greek champs even a shot. Now CSKA will get a chance to play for its sixth Euroleague title in the final game on Sunday against the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between FC Barcelona Regal and Olympiacos Piraeus. Panathinaikos simply dominated early and led by double figures for most of the first quarter, which ended at 15-29. However a record-setting defensive effort by CSKA carried the Russian champs back to tie it before Mike Batiste put Panathinaikos ahead 32-34 at halftime. CSKA took its first lead early in the third quarter and what ensued from then on was a basketball classic for the ages. Andrei Kirilenko led the winners with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Alexey Shved added 15 points – including several clutch fourth-quarter scores – and Milos Teodosic, who nailed the go-ahead bucket with 38.1 seconds to go, scored 12. Sarunas Jasikevicius paced Panathinaikos with a season-high 19 points, but lost for the first time in his fifth Final Four. Batiste added 11 points, Dimitris Diamantidis tallied 10 plus 6 assists and Kostas Kaimakoglou posted 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists in defeat.
Aleks Maric opened the scoring with a dunk and a layup, assisted by Jasikevicius and Diamantidis, respectively. CSKA Moscow opened its account through a pair of Teodosic free-throws, but went on to missed its next 8 field-goal attempts. Maric scored a second dunk in the first three minutes before leaving the game, and his sub Batiste continued to hurt CSKA inside by scoring 5 points and drawing 2 fouls while giving Panathinaikos a 2-11 lead little more than three minutes of play. Ramunas Siskauskas finally scored for CSKA after an offensive rebound, but Romain Sato hit a three-pointer and Diamantidis drove to the basket to make it 4-16. Other than being 12 points behind, CSKA had problems with Kirilenko and Nenad Kristic both having 2 personal fouls. Viktor Khryapa and Jasikevicius then trade threes as Panathinaikos scored 19 points in less than five minutes of the game. On the other side of the floor, CSKA just could not find its shooting touch with Andrey Vorontsevitch and Teodosic missing 3 three-pointers on a single possession. Sasha Kaun and Alexey Sheved tried to get CSKA’s offense going, but Jasikevicius hit a runner and a layup to make it a 14-point game and it was 15-29 at the end of first quarter after David Logan scored a coast-to-coast layup as time expired.
Krstic and Jamont Gordon each scored twice from the charity stripe to close the gap to 10 points as CSKA stepped up on defense in the paint with Krstic blocking 2 shots and making a steal. But Nick Calathes hit an open three-pointer from the left corner to make it 19-32 and force Coach Jonas Kazlauskas to call a timeout. A physical game offered low scoring, and Kirilenko’s basket-plus-foul with less than five minutes remaining in the half was the first field-goal for CSKA in the second quarter. Darjus Lavrinovic cut the deficit to single digits a minute later, and Shved’s coast-to-coast lay-up made it 26-32 with three minutes to play in the half. Panathinaikos had a very few open looks in the second quarter against CSKA’s tough defense, and when the Greens did get an open shot, Kaimakoglou and Jaskievicius missed threes. On the other end, Teodosic and Kirilenko made three of 5 free-throws, and then Teodosic found Kirilenko in transition for an open three-pointer that capped a 13-0 run and tied the game at 32-32. Batiste answered with a layup that finally ended the Greens’ six-minute scoring drought and made it 32-34 at halftime.
Teodosic and Krstic hooked up on a pick-and-roll at the start of the third quarter, while Jasikevicius drove to the basket and hit a three-pointer to keep Panathinaikos in front. CSKA was again down by only 1 after Krstic was successful in the low-post and Siskauskas was rewarded with an easy layup. When Kirilenko hit a three-pointer a couple of possessions later, CSKA grabbed its first lead of the game, 41-39. Kaimakoglou answered with a three, and Khryapa threw an alley-oop for Kirilenko as both teams looked like they found their offense. A three by Diamantidis was followed up with Kaimakoglou’s basket-plus-foul for 46-50 Panathinaikos advantage. Both teams continued to make plays, with Kirilenko hustling for a tough layup and Shved making an impossible three, while Diamantidis drove through the crowd to keep Panathinaikos up by 4 and give his team a 51-55 lead going into the final 10 minutes of the game.
Batiste sank 2 free throws and Kirilenko made a turnaround jumper to start the fourth quarter. CSKA went on a 7-0 run with a tough three-pointer by Teodosic and an easy layup by Krstic, but Jasikevicius hit a jumper to put Panathinaikos back up 58-59 with seven minutes to go. Seconds later Batiste went to the bench with 4 personal fouls, however no team scored in more than three minutes before Shved cut through the opposing defense for a reverse layup. After couple of turnovers, one on each side, Saras simply took over when he was needed most. With less than three minutes left, he sank a floater to give his team the lead, stole a ball and sank a three for 60-64. But after a timeout by Kazlauskas, Shved got a lucky bounce to cut the deficit, and then made 1 of 2 free throws to get CSKA to 63-64. Now coach Zeljko Obradovic called a timeout with 1 minute and 26 seconds to go as everything was set for a wild finish. Batiste missed a hook-shot in a mismatch with Siskauskas, then Teodosic hit a huge jumper immediately after his own in-bound pass to put CSKA up 65-64 with 38.1 seconds left on the clock. Jasikevicius tried to answer right back, but his attempt to drive to the basket was not successful. Shved went to the line with 21 seconds left in the game and hit only the first free throw, but Batiste did not manage to secure the defensive rebound. The ball went to CSKA and they ran 11 seconds off the clock before Teodosic was fouled. But he missed both free-throws giving Panathinaikos 8.3 seconds for the final possession. But CSKA’s great defense stymied the Greens, who did not get off a final shot, which allowed CSKA to celebrate a tough win and move on to Sunday’s final!
Friday, May 11, 2012