In one of the most exciting title games ever, CSKA Moscow won the Euroleague crown for the first time in 35 years and ended Maccabi Tel Aviv's two-year reign as champions with a 73-69 victory over in the continental title game on Sunday at sold-out Sazka Arena in Prague. Theodoros Papaloukas scored 18 points and dished 7 assists to lead the winners and earn MVP honors. CSKA, playing in its fourth consecutive Final Four, but only its first championship game since 1973, denied Maccabi a chance to become just the third team in Euroleague history to win three straight titles, a feat that still belongs only to ASK Riga and Split. The victory adds a fifth continental trophy to CSKA's collection, matching Varese and Maccabi for second place on the all-time list of winners. CSKA broke the game with a 0-13 run to get a 35-30 lead at halftime. Even when Maccabi rallied and got a 56-58 edge with 8 minutes to go, Trajan Langdon and Matjaz Smodis scored from downtown in a 10-1 run which put CSKA in charge for good. Maccabi never surrender and rallied within 71-69, but Langdon made free throws to seal the CSKA win. David Vanterpool added 16 points, Matjaz Smodis had 12, Trajan Langdon 11 and Aleksey Savrasenko 10 for CSKA. Will Solomon led Maccabi with 20 points, Jamie Arnold had 14 and Anthony Parker 10 in defeat. CSKA coach won his third Euroleague title and improved its overall record against Maccabi to 9-0.
Maccabi controlled the opening tip and needed just 13 seconds to score on free throws by Maceo Baston. Both teams started the game with man-to-man defense with different pairings, as David Vanterpool, as expected, was on Parker, but he played against Tal Burstein at the other end. CSKA tried to slow the game down, but suffered from poor shot selection in the early going, as Maccabi was all over the place on defense. Baston had a huge block on Vanterpool, which allowed Will Solomon to fire in a triple from the top of the key. Solomon then stole the ball from J.R. Holden and darted to the hoop for a bucket to make it 0-7 and force CSKA coach Ettore Messina into an early timeout. After the rest, CSKA forced Maccabi into a 24-second violation, and then went downcourt and got on the board on a Matjaz Smodis three-pointer his team's first points after nearly four minutes. Vanterpool followed with a long jumper to get CSKA going, but he picked up his second foul on the next play and was replaced by Theodoros Papaloukas. Maccabi went to a match-up zone defense, but Aleksey Savrasenko intimidated inside, following a strong block on Nikola Vujcic with a fast break dunk over Baston to tie the game at 7. CSKA had already entered the foul bonus and Burstein made the most of it with free throws, which Jamie Arnold followed with a second-chance basket for a 7-11 Maccabi lead. Savrasenko scored in the paint and Trajan Langdon canned a triple from the right wing to give CSKA its first lead, 12-11. Solomon answered from downtown before Holden finished a fast break with a mid-range jumper, good to tie things at 14. Burstein drove to the hoop for two, which Papaloukas matched at the other end. Free throws by substitute Jamie Arnold and a driving basket by Holden fixed the score at 18-18 after 10 minutes.
Papaloukas opened the second period with an outstanding reverse layup as CSKA's defense began looking for two-on-one traps as often as possible. Parker stepped up with a fade-away jumper for his first points of the game and Baston beat the shot block with a long jumper, which put Maccabi back in front, 20-22. Vanterpool canned a five-meter jumper and at the other end Tomas Van Den Spiegel swatted Baston's effort, sending the ball out of bounds. Parker finished another long possession with a corner triple, only for Langdon to match it at the other end for a 25-25 tie after 14 minutes. Maccabi called timeout to set its offense with CSKA starting to collect steals all over and not allowing any easy shots. Papaloukas flew downcourt after a steal, drew a foul and made the free throw for another lead change. CSKA switched to zone defense and immediately collected a steal, which allowed Savrasenko to score on the other end. CSKA frustrated Maccabi with its outstanding zone defense, while Smodis grabbed an offensive rebound over Parker and scored for a 30-25 margin. Savrasenko added to the CSKA lead inside and then a Papaloukas three capped a 13-0 run and gave CSKA a double-figure lead for the first time. Derrick Sharp ended the Maccabi cold spell with a triple and after a missed Holden three, Burstein drove and scored over Savrasenko to send the teams into the locker rooms at halftime with CSKA leading 35-30. CSKA had already forced 9 turnovers and limited Maccabi to 10-for-28 shooting.
Maccabi threw the ball away on the opening possession of the second half and CSKA too advantage when Vanterpool fired in a jumper. Parker slipped and lost the ball on the next trip and Vanterpool went for three via a basket and foul. An angry Pini Gershon pulled Vujcic in favor of Arnold, whose inside presence helped Baston get to the line for one point. But it was Vanterpool with the hot hand and his three made it 42-31. Arnold responded with a hook shoot, but Vanterpool couldn't be stopped. A pair of free throws gave him all of CSKA's 9 points in the period in less than three minutes. Messina decided to rest Vanterpool and called upon Papaloukas. Without Vanterpool, CSKA went without a basket on four straight trips down the court, while Maccabi fought back via a Burstein triple. But on the ensuing possession, Burstein was called for a charge his third foul. However reserve Kirk Penney picked up where Burstein left off with a three to make it 44-39. Penney then committed a turnover, which allowed Papaloukas to race downcourt for a layup. CSKA returned to long possessions as it sought open shots, but Maccabi had improved its defense. Arnold had a three-pointer bounce in to the delight of the yellow fans in the stands , as Maccabi clawed its way to 46-42. Messina quickly called timeout to avoid further problems. Vujcic closed the gap to two from the line and after Savrasenko missed two free throws, Vujcic went inside to tie the score. Savrasenko scored inside and Vanterpool, back on court with three fouls, made a free throw to give CSKA some breathing room at 49-46. Both defenses became even more physical, but Parker buried a long jumper to make it a 49-48 at the end of an exciting third quarter.
With the Euroleague title just 10 minutes away for being decided, intensity rose to the roof at Sazka Arena. Vanterpool fed Smodis for a triple from the top of the key and then found Papaloukas for another bomb from downtown, good for a 55-48 CSKA margin. Solomon tried to change things with a quick layup, as both teams exchanged turnovers for three straight possessions. The CSKA defense collapsed on Solomon, who found Parker for a corner three to bring Maccabi within 55-53. Solomon then capped a 8-0 run by stealing the ball from Vanterpool and drilling a long jumper, which tied the game again with under seven minutes to go. Papaloukas hit a free throw, but a red-hot Solomon buried a three to give Maccabi its first lead of the half, 56-58. CSKA regained the lead on a Langdon triple and after Solomon missed, Smodis buried another one from downtown to give CSKA a four-point lead, 62-58. Baston made 1 of 2 free throws, but Vanterpool beat the shot clock at the end of a long CSKA sequence, forcing Maccabi to call timeout to regroup with time running out. Holden collected a key steal, allowing CSKA to enter the final two minutes with a five-point lead. Parker missed a three-pointer and Vujcic lost the ball, as every Maccabi fan in the arena began to fear that the dynasty was coming to an end. Papaloukas drew a foul, made free throws and gave CSKA a 66-59 lead with 1:04 to go. Arnold hit foul shots with 48.7 seconds remaining, as free throws carousel was about to start. Solomon's circus shot made it 68-63 with 33 tics on the clock, but Maccabi, forced to foul, lost Burstein to his fifth foul as Smodis made one and gave CSKA a 6-point lead with 28 seconds remaining. Maccabi was not done, however, as Solomon hit a triple, and even though Holden scored a layup with 15.8 seconds to go, Arnold buried a three which gave his team some hope, 71-69, with 5.8 seconds to go. But Solomon's last-ditch effort to steal the in-bounds pass resulted in a foul on Langdon, who made both free throws to seal the win and help CSKA to become the new Euroleague champion.
Sunday, April 30, 2006