CSKA Moscow remained atop of Group A after surviving a tough challenge from Zalgiris Kaunas for a 78-70 win on Wednesday night in the Russian capital. The victory stretched the Russian champion's Euroleague winning streak at Universal Sports Arena to 21 games. CSKA is now 4-1 in the group and will at least share first place depending upon the result of Tau Ceramica later Wednesday. CSKA visits Tau in Spain next week. Meanwhile Zalgiris dropped to 2-3 and will next visit Olympiacos Piraeus. CSKA looked to steamroll the Lithuanian champs early and led by double figures midway through the opening period. Zalgiris chased and managed to close the gap a number of times, however it grew to 12 again in the third period. Former CSKA star Marcus Brown knotted the game at 64-64 early in the fourth quarter. Zalgiris continued to plug away with Michael Bradley as the focal point in his Euroleague debut, but the visitors ran out of answers, while David Andersen and Nikos Zisis stepped up when it counted most to help seal the win. Ramunas Siskauskas led all scorers with 19 points, Aleksey Savrasenko added 15, Andersen 14 and J.R. Holden 10. Marko Popovic paced Zalgiris with 14 points, Bradley had 13 and Brown 10.
CSKA needed just 15 seconds to score on a jumper by Siskauskas. Bradley opened the Zalgiris account with his first Euroleague points. Langdon swished a five-meter shot and Siskauskas buried one from downtown for a 7-2 CSKA lead. Holden, one of the best on-the-ball defensive guards around, tried to put pressure on DeJuan Collins from the opening tip. But it was his offense, as he buried a triple, that forced Zalgiris to call timeout at 10-2. Collins came back with a turnaround jumper, but Savrasenko matched it with a jump hook and Marcus Goree scored in the paint to give CSKA a 14-4 margin. Collins kept pacing Zalgiris with a triple and Dainius Salenga added a tip-in, but a driving layup by Siskauskas kept CSKA comfortaby ahead. Goran Jurak stepped up with a triple from the corner and Collins added a driving basket to get Zalgiris back in the game, 17-14. Theo Papaloukas stepped on court and Zalgiris switched to zone defense. Holden punished it with a three-pointer and soon added a five-meter jumper to give CSKA a 23-14 lead. Popovic and Salenga stepped up with consecutive three-pointers to keep Zalgiris close, 25-20, after 10 minutes.
Papaloukas scored in the low post at the start of the second quarter, but Jonas Maciulis bettered that with a layup-plus-foul. Andersen found space for an open jumper, as Zalgiris did not manage to adjust its zone defense. Goree hit a free throw and Papaloukas added a layup to give CSKA a 32-23 lead. The game turned into a physical battle in which CSKA made the most of it, as Siskauskas fired in one from downtown to make it a 12-point game. Maciulis countered with a close jumper and Paulius Jankunas added a follow-up layup, but Savrasenko and an unstoppable Siskauskas kept CSKA way ahead. Brown found his first points on a corner three-pointer and soon added free throws to bring Zalgiris back to life, but Siskauskas shined with his third triple. Still a close basket by Bradley caused CSKA to call timeout at 41-34. Papaloukas dunked it off a mid-court steal as CSKA returned to its usual self on defense. Even when that, Popovic beat the buzzer with a driving layup that allowed Zalgiris to get within 43-36 at halftime.
Savrasenko scored after the break before Maciulis made free throws for Zalgiris. CSKA continued to control the game with its trademark defense, while Holden hit a jumper to get his team going. Collins found space for a difficult driving layup that Savrasenko matched with another jump hook. Zalgiris tried to speed up the game tempo with Popovic at point guard. Bradley scored inside, but a very active Savrasenko shined with a reverse layup-plus-foul, good for a 52-42 CSKA margin. Zalgiris was switching from man-to-man to zone defense while Brown stepped up with free throws. Goree buried a six-meter shot and Andersen added his trademark turnaround jumper to give CSKA some fresh air, 56-44. Bradley kept pacing Zalgiris with a three-point play, which Andersen erased with a bomb from downtown. Popovic and Goree traded free throws, as CSKA started to struggle now. Siskauskas fed Savrasenko for an easy layup, but Popovic buried a triple and Salenga added a baseline jumper. Then another buzzer-beating layup by Popovic brought Zalgiris back to life, 62-57, after 30 minutes.
Popovic and Savrasenko traded baskets at the start of the final quarter and free throws by Jankunas got Zalgiris even closer, 64-61. CSKA did not find answers in offense while Brown fired in a triple to tie the game at 64-64 with seven minutes to go. Siskauskas stepped up with a baseline jumper, as Zalgiris used Donatas Motejiunas to guard Langdon. CSKA survived a three-chance Zalgiris offense with strong defense, but kept having trouble at the other end. Andersen stepped up with a critical jumper for a 68-64 CSKA edge already in the final four minutes. Jankunas provided a highlight with a power layup, but Andersen answered from downtown to give CSKA a 71-66 edge. It was do-or-die time for Zalgiris and Bradley scored in the paint, but Zisis found his first points on a driving layup. Bradley scored again, but Zisis made a free throw for a 74-70 edge. Zalgiris called timeout with 59 seconds remaining, but Maciulis committed a turnover. Meanwhile, a layup by Andersen with 18.3 seconds to go sealed yet another Euroleague home win for CSKA.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007