CSKA Moscow is a step closer to qualifying for its fifth consecutive Final Four after thrashing Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv 80-58 in Game 1 of the best-of-three Quarterfinal Playoffs in the Russian capital on Tuesday night. CSKA will have a chance to finish the deal on Thursday when Maccabi hosts Game 2 at Nokia Arena. CSKA was close to breaking its own record for fewest points allowed in a Quarterfinal Playoffs game – it beat Efes Pilsen 66-57 in Game 1 of last year's playoffs. Trajan Langdon led the winners with 16 points. David Andersen added 14, J.R. Holden 12 and Thomas Van den Spiegel 11 – including four spectacular dunks in the final 2 minutes. Oscar Torres grabbed 10 rebounds and Theo Papaloukas came off the bench to turn things around early and finished with 8 assists. Nikola Vujcic led Maccabi with 10 points and 9 rebounds. Langdon and Andersen each fired in two triples during a 15-1 run that gave CSKA a 22-6 lead after 10 minutes. CSKA hit 8-of-16 triples and outrebounded its opponents 19-10 in the first half for a 40-22 halftime lead. Maccabi never threatened in the second half and Van den Spiegel's slams sealed CSKA's win in style.
CSKA won the opening tip and scored quickly as Torres attacked the basket. After 2-and-a-half minutes, Tal Burstein put Maccabi on the board with a pair of free throws. Matjaz Smodis answered with a three-pointer on the other end, but Burstein answered in form to make it 6-5. Maccabi was able to force the pace it wanted, but unable to convert it into a lead. Meanwhile CSKA had trouble scoring, committing 4 early turnovers. However when Papaloukas came in midway through the period, everything changed. CSKA began to capitalize on its opportunities, with Aleksey Savrasenko scoring inside and Langdon from outside for an 11-5 lead. Papaloukas then fed Langdon and Andersen joined the three-point festival, forcing Maccabi to call timeout at 17-6. Andersen stayed on fire and hit another three-pointer before Thomas Van den Spiegel capped a 15-1 run with a free throw to give CSKA a 22-6 lead after 10 minutes.
Nikola Vujcic tried to ignit the visitors' comeback with a jump hook early in the second quarter, but J.R. Holden answered from downtown to give CSKA a 16-point lead. Maccabi tried a zone defense, but Langdon beat it with back-to-back triples that made it 30-10. Andersen made free throws, which Noel Felix erased with a reverse dunk. A big block by Vujcic allowed Will Bynum to score at the other end and CSKA called timeout to regroup. Bynum kept pacing Maccabi with free throws, which Holden erased with a tough jumper. CSKA started to dominate the boards while Holden hit a long jumper in transition. Langdon and Vujcic exchanged free throws before Andersen buried a turnaround jumper for a 40-19 CSKA lead. Vujcic nailed a three-pointer to get Maccabi within 40-22 at halftime.
The halftime break didn't help Maccabi much, as the Israeli champs came out flat. Bynum and Goran Jeretin both missed pull-up threes, while on the other end, Torres scored on the offensive glass and Smodis converted a three-point play. Simas Jasaitas's tip-in on the offensive glass ended a stretch of nearly 3 minutes without a Maccabi basket. CSKA methodically picked Maccabi's defense apart with Smodis and Van den Spiegel getting easy baskets for a 49-26 lead. Jamie Arnold carried the Maccabi attack on his back for 7 consecutive Tel Aviv points to get within 51-33. However Holden and Andersen combined to restore a 22-point CSKA lead and after Yotam Halperin's buzzer-beating three rimmed out, the third quarter ended with the hosts up 56-34.
Papaloukas zipped a perfect pass inside to Savrasenko and then stepped up with a jumper of his own as the lead reached 26. The looks on the Maccabi players said it all as the last quarter became for protocol only. Holden thrilled the crowd with a spin move and a jumper and the hosts defense never relented on the other end. Sharon Shason hit a three for his first points to make it 66-41. Shason hit another to avoid letting the difference get to embarrassing depths for Maccabi. Van den Spiegel threw down four slams in the last 2 minutes – including one at the buzzer – to finish the show as the Russian champs took a step closer to Athens.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007