CSKA Moscow is headed back to the Final Four. The defending champs clinched their fifth consecutive Final Four appearance by crushing Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv 92-71 in the Russian capital on Thursday night. Trajan Langdon led five CSKA scorers in double figures with 20 points as coach Ettore Messina's side finished the Euroleague season with a perfect home record. CSKA scored 12 unanswered points in the opening minutes on the way to setting a record and tying another in a dominant first half that put the game out of reach. One week after Maccabi held the Russian champs to a Quarterfinal Playoffs record 56 points in Tel Aviv, CSKA bettered that in 20 minutes while tying a record for most points in a half. The hosts made an incredible 13-of-15 two-point shots and 9-of-14 threes in the half. Smodis scored 12 of his 15 in the first quarter compared to 13 for the entire Maccabi team. CSKA had 32 in the first 10 minutes, setting a new standard for points in one quarter in the playoffs. CSKA will now face the winner of the series between Unicaja and Winterthur FCB in the semifinals of the Final Four next month in Athens. Theo Papaloukas ran the show with 14 points and 10 assists, David Andersen added 15 and Oscar Torres 13. Simas Jasaitas was the only Maccabi player with his 'A' game, finishing with 18 points. Nikola Vujcic and Derrick Sharp added 9 each in defeat.
CSKA won the opening tip and went to Smodis inside, who put the hosts on the scoreboard with a jump hook. Will Bynum scored Maccabi's first points with a long jumper. CSKA slowed the pace down and went to Smodis often, who drilled a triple. Torres then corrected a Langdon miss with a pair from the line and after Jamie Arnold missed two point-blank tip-ins, Torres punished with a three from the corner. Tal Burstein committed an offensive foul and Smodis then finished off another series with a Smodis slam for a 12-2 lead, causing Maccabi coach Neven Spahija to take a timeout. Lior Eliyahu came off the bench to provide some spark, but his first shot was blocked by Aleksey Savrasenko. Smodis scored his 9th point to show who was in control. Sharp drove to snap a 12-0 run, but Torres's triple put his team ahead by 13 – with all the CSKA points scored by two players so far. Papaloukas came in and scored in transition and then an Eliyahu turnover led to a Holden layup. Papaloukas added a free throw for a 22-6 lead. The red defense continued to suffocate the Maccabi attack and Papaloukas's first triple extended the lead to 19. Jasaitas beat the 24-second clock with a three-pointer and Eliyahu hit twice from the line, but Holden's jumper made it 29-11. Smodis then made a wide-open three to put his team up 21 and give CSKA the record for most points scored in a single period in a Quarterfinal Playoffs game, sucking the fight out of Maccabi. Yaniv Green's free throws ended the period at 32-13.
Maccabi didn't look any better as the second quarter got underway, but CSKA continued to roll. A Papaloukas three and a Torres layup put the hosts up 24 before Jasaitas hit from downtown. Langdon bettered him with back-to-back threes to make it 43-16. The hosts were 8-of-11 from beyond the arc at that point. Jasaitas made another three as the only Maccabi player with any kind of offensive game, but a red-hot Langdon answered with a jumper. Vujcic scored his first points midway through the second period, but Savrasenko made a pair of free throws and an basket inside to put CSKA up 31. Langdon's next triple increased the advantage to 55-23, before Jasaitas and Goran Jeretin combined for a pair of Maccabi baskets. Jasaitas had another three in him, Sharp added another and Jasaitas completed a 2-12 run with an offensive rebound basket, but the visitors were still down 22. And after a Andersen jumper and a Vujcic basket, that's how it stood at halftime, 59-37.
The pace dropped at the start of the second half and so did the scoring, with Langdon's bank shot the only points in the first 3 minutes. After Smodis made two free throws, Jasaitas scored inside for Maccabi. Vujcic netted a triple and then a jumper to make it 65-44. CSKA seemed to cool down, but poor game management by the visitors allowed the Russian champs to remain comfortably ahead. Papaloukas ended a drought with a wide-open three, however Burstein matched him at the other end. Andersen and Sharp swapped jumpers before time ran out on the third quarter with CSKA in total control, 72-49.
Green started the fourth quarter with a three-point play and Jeretin hit from downtown to cut the gap to 18, but Torres answered with a three to ease any of the home fans' doubts. Bynum cut inside for a score, but Andersen drilled a three and added a jumper to make it 83-57 as showtime began. Sharon Shason got on the board for Maccabi and soon added a three, but the outcome was never in doubt. CSKA players enjoyed the final minutes even as Maccabi cut the gap to as close as 86-70. Langdon continued to fire away before leaving to a standing ovation as CSKA celebrated a a ticket to Athens.
Thursday, April 12, 2007