Avenging its only loss of the Top 16 so far, CSKA Moscow returned to the Quarterfinal Playoffs and took the inside track for first place in Group G with a no-doubt-about-it 93-70 win over visiting Unicaja in the Russian capital on Wednesday. Never sharply challenged by its semifinal opponent of one year ago, CSKA improved to 4-1, advanced to the playoffs and will become the Group G champion if AXA FC Barcelona loses another game. Meanwhile, Unicaja dropped to 2-3 and will run out of chances if Barcelona wins again. Marcus Goree led the winners with 16 points. Matjaz Smodis added 14, Trajan Langdon 13, Theo Papaloukas 12 and J. R. Holden 10 for CSKA. German Gabriel had 14 points for Unicaja while Daniel Santiago added 12. A 8-0 run in which Tomas Van den Spiegel dunked it twice allowed CSKA to get a 24-16 edge after 10 minutes. Another 9-0 run that Goree capped with a jump-hook broke the game open midway through the second quarter, before Ramunas Siskauskas beat the halftime buzzer with a banked-in triple to make it 44-26. Langdon, Papaloukas and Smodis boosted the hosts' margin to 62-36 late in the third quarter, plenty enough for CSKA to start making playoff plans.
David Andersen got CSKA going with a long jumper, as Unicaja struggled to find Santiago in the low post early. Meanwhile, a put-back dunk by Goree gave the hosts a 4-0 lead. Jiri Welsch's reverse layup got Unicaja on board, but Goree followed an killer two-handed dunk with a jump hook. Gabriel sank a mid-range jumper for Unicaja and Santiago scored in the paint as the guests got within 8-6. Langdon fed Siskauskas for a three-pointer but Santiago kept pacing Unicaja with a power basket. Holden struck from downtown while Santiago kept Unicaja punching with a mid-range jumper, 13-10. Carlos Cabezas stepped up for Unicaja with a fastbreak basket that Andersen matched with free throws, then Smodis took over with a driving layup in a 8-0 CSKA run that Tomas Van den Spiegel capped with consecutive dunks, good for a 21-12 lead. Santiago made free throws and Carlos Jimenez banked in a close shot but Goree nailed a triple for a 24-16 CSKA margin after 10 minutes.
Andersen buried a stop-and-pop jumper in transition right to start of the second quarter before Goree struck from downtown to make it a 13-point game, 29-16, after 12 minutes. Unicaja could not find the way to the basket while Papaloukas downed a fallaway jumper and Goree a jump-hook for a 9-0 run that forced a Unicaja timeout at 33-16. The guests had been scoreless for more than 4 minutes until Gabriel made a tough driving layup. Davor Kus finished a patient Unicaja offense with a three-pointer and soon added free throws to give his team some hope. Gabriel scored in the low post but Papaloukas copied him at the other end and added a fastbreak layup to restore a 14-point CSKA lead, 39-25. Langdon buried a jumper off a screen while Siskauskas banked in an incredible three-pointer at the buzzer for a 44-26 CSKA margin at halftime.
Welsch tried to re-start the guests with free throws immediately after the break but Langdon sank a jumper off a screen to keep CSKA ahead, 46-28. Cabezas beat CSKA's zone defense with a three-pointer but he didn't find much help. CSKA kept trying zone defense on every inbound pass while back-to-back baskets by Langdon gave his team a 50-31 margin. Cabezas kept pacing Unicaja with a layup but Andersen scored inside and fed Goree for his third dunk. Unicaja's defense could not figure out whom among CSKA's scorers to try to stop, and when Holden buried his first triple, it broke the game open at 57-33. Santiago tried to change things but Papaloukas fed Holden and Smodis for consecutive layups and Unicaja called timeout at 62-36. CSKA kept rolling anyway, as Nikos Zisis buried a jumper. Even though Carlos Jimenez found an easy layup and Welsch buried with a big basket, they only managed to get Unicaja within 67-44 after 30 minutes.
Unicaja tried to speed up the tempo early in the fourth quarter, as Boni Ndong provided a highlight with a monster dunk-plus-free throw. He soon banked in a jumper to bring Unicaja even closer, 67-49. Even after CSKA called timeout to avoid surprises, the hosts kept struggling to score. Langdon eventually rescued CSKA with a corner three-pointer and even when Bojan Popovic sank a mid-range jumper for Unicaja, Holden struck from downtown for a 73-51 CSKA lead. Victor Khryapa had a huge block on Ndong that allowed Langdon to hit another shot. Melvin Sanders buried a triple but a tough basket by Smodis made Unicaja call timeout at 77-54. Gabriel sank a three-pointer and added free throws but it happened to be too little, too late, as Van den Spiegel again detonated outstanding back-to-back dunks. CSKA fans were already celebrating the return of Smodis and that of CSKA to its accustomed spot in the Quarterfinal Playoffs!
Wednesday, March 12, 2008