CSKA Moscow stormed into the battle for the top spots in Group C with a pivotal 67-71 road win over Caja Laboral at Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria, Spain. Former Euroleague MVP Ramunas Siskauskas shined with 24 points on 5-for-7 three-point shooting and center Sasha Kaun, making his first career start, responded with career highs of 14 points and 8 rebounds to lead the Russian champs to a 3-2 record and a share of a three-way tie for second place. CSKA hosts Maroussi next week. Laboral is now also 3-2 and will host the other 3-2 team, Lottomatica Roma, next week. CSKA opened up a commanding lead in the first quarter thanks to Siskauskas and Kaun, but Laboral never gave in and battled back, eventually taking the lead by the end of the third quarter. That set up an exciting last 10 minutes, but CSKA proved to have more in the tank and made the key baskets to take an important road win. Trajan Langdon added 13 points for CSKA and Viktor Khryapa posted 9 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Carl English led Laboral with 14 points, Fernando San Emeterio had 12 points and 5 asissts, Mirza Teletovic scored 11 and Tiago Splitter finished with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
Teletovic opened fire for the hosts hitting his first three-point attempt and although Siskauskas responded early with a free throw, Splitter followed him with a nice layup to give Caja Laboral a 5-1 lead after two minutes. But the guests didn’t tremble as English went to the bench because of foul trouble. Laboral was not very accurate on offense, which was exploited by the Russian champs to tie the game at 8-8 after a three by Siskauskas followed by a monster alley-oop by Kaun midway through the first period. Siskauskas remained hot, hitting his second three and feeding Kryhapa for another bomb to cap a 0-11 run for an 8-14 lead that forced an urgent timeout by Dusko Ivanovic. The Laboral boss replaced Pau Ribas with Sean Singletary, looking for a more balanced game on offense, but nothing seemed to work for the hosts. Meanwhile Siskauskas killed San Emeterio’s defense with two more threes to make it 12-20. Kaun scored again to give his team a double-digit margin and Siskauskas closed the quarter with a buzzer-beating bank shot to raise difference to 12-24 at the end of the first period.
Caja Laboral continued to struggle on offense after the break and was unable to find open shots as Kaun was too big for Splitter inside. The visitors weren’t better, though, as they remained scoreless for the first five minutes of the quarter. Laboral found an unexpected help through Stanko Barac, who took advantage of his size against Khryapa to score twice inside and get an additional foul shot to reduce the margin. Without Siskauskas and Kaun on court, CSKA stumbled and San Emeterio scored another layup on the offensive glass. Laboral continued its charge as Carl English hit his first three to bring the hosts within 22-24 midway through the quarter. CSKA head coach Evgeny Pashutin decided to bring Siskauskas back and the effects were almost immediate. He fed Ivan Radenovic for an easy basket to end his team’s drought and Zoran Planinic hit a jumper to extend the lead to 24-28. English came to the rescue with another three, but Kaun and Khryapa answered immediately to raise difference to 27-32. The teams exchanged baskets with Kaun the main weapon for the guests and Singletary very active for the hosts. Khryapa and Kaun punished Laboral with back-to-back dunks, answering an English fastbreak three, for a 35-40 lead entering the last play. Pashutin prepared the last play for Langdon, who needed less than 5 seconds to nail a long buzzer-beater three-pointer that made it 35-43 at halftime.
Caja Laboral started with two big men, Splitter and Barac, in an attempt to balance the physical advantage of CSKA’s frontcourt, but it wasn’t enough to change the trend. Although English and Splitter scored for the hosts, the answer came again through Kaun and Siskauskas for a 41-47 lead. It was Pau Ribas with a right-sided three pointer who seemed to awake the hosts, whose defense was significantly better than before. The fourth foul of Khryapa forced Pashutin to call for a timeout in order to restructure CSKA’s game. But English tied the game at 47-47 with another three and Ribas hit again from behind the arc to answer Langdon’s layup and return the lead to the hosts, 50-49. The atmosphere was great at this point, as both teams were playing high-voltage basketball, especially on defense. Holden hit a nice one-handed shot to enter the last minute with a 50-51 edge for the visitors. It lasted a few seconds, though, as Teletovic hit an open three to send the game to the decisive quarter with Laboral up 53-51.
Splitter opened fire in the last period with a pair of free throws, but Langdon came quickly to the rescue with back-to-back three pointers that returned a 2-point margin to CSKA with eight minutes to go. Ivanovic didn’t want to wait for more and called for a timeout to prevent the guests from feeling comfortable. San Emeterio nailed a corner three-pointer right after that, but Siskauskas replied with a jumper to turn the game into a thriller, 58-59, with six minutes to go. That was the moment in which J.R. Holden decided it was his turn, as he nailed a pair of jumpers, the last one from downtown, to raise difference to 58-64 and force Laboral to a second timeout with less than five minutes to go. The hosts didn’t panic, though, as Teletovic replied from behind the arc to keep his team alive, 61-64. But Siskauskas hit another big shot from downtown, giving CSKA a 61-67 margin to resist the Laboral comeback attempts. Khryapa, assisted by Kaun, threw down a slam after back-to back layups by San Emeterio and Ribas to enter the last minute with CSKA leading 65-69. Teletovic missed an open three, but as Langdon turned the ball over with only 42 seconds to go. English tried and missed another three, but CSKA wasn’t able to close the game because Holden turned it over again and allowed San Emeterio to make it 67-69 with only 7 seconds left. The final decision came through the hands of Siskauskas, who hit two free throws to cap his awesome performance and seal visitors win, 67-71.
Thursday, November 26, 2009