Only one of two undefeated teams remaining in the Euroleague, CSKA Moscow stayed perfect in Group C by beating Unicaja 62-73 in Malaga, Spain, on Wednesday night. CSKA improved to 6-0 and now boasts a three-game lead over Benetton Treviso, Ulker and Panathinaikos, all tied for second place at 3-3. Unicaja, meanwhile, dropped to 2-4 and a fifth-place tie with Opel Skyliners and Pau-Orthez. CSKA is also one of the few undefeated teams on the continent, as it left Malaga with its 15th consecutive win between the Euroleague and the Russian League. Marcus Brown led the winners with 24 points, while Antonio Granger added 13 and David Andersen 10. Fran Vazquez led Unicaja with a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds. Stephane Risacher added 11 for the hosts, who made just 1 of 20 three-pointers, a key factor in the outcome. CSKA got a double-digit lead late in the second period and broke the game in the third to avoid trouble until the final buzzer.
CSKA started the game looking for its big men near the basket, but a layup by Vazquez and a mid-range jumper by J.R. Bremer gave Unicaja an early lead, 4-2. Unicaja switched to 2-3 zone defense after Granger's first three-pointer, and then CSKA went scoreless for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, Bremer followed a layup by Jorge Garbajosa with a basket in penetration for an 8-5 Unicaja lead. Brown came to the rescue for CSKA, scoring 2 layups in penetration in a 0-6 run which powered the guests to a 10-13 lead. Vazquez drilled a mid-range jumper and Risacher followed it with a basket-plus-free throw to put Unicaja back in charge at 15-13. A jump hook by Granger and free throws by Brown gave CSKA an 18-19 edge after 10 minutes.
Unicaja improved its defense early in the second quarter, forcing CSKA into 2 quick turnovers. CSKA called timeout and changed its offensive strategy, using Granger and Sergei Panov to slash to the basket for a new 21-23 lead. The game turned into a physical battle as Walter Herrmann scored off a steal for Unicaja, but Brown and Sergey Monya, with a two-handed dunk, helped the guests keep a 23-27 lead after 14 minutes. A reverse layup by Herrmann helped Unicaja regain the lead, 28-27, but Andersen drilled a short jumper which Theo Papaloukas followed with a fastbreak dunk, good enough for a 28-31 CSKA edge. The guests' man-to-man defense, led by Papaloukas, excelled late in the half, while Brown followed Granger's three with 2 free throws to cap a 1-10 run. As such, CSKA took a double-digit lead, 31-41, at halftime.
CSKA tried to break open the game early in the third, as Aleksey Savrasenko and J.R. Holden scored near the basket for a 31-45 margin. Unicaja improved its aggressiveness on defense, however, while Herrmann made a floating layup and Vazquez a powerful dunk to bring Unicaja within single digits, 37-45. CSKA again found the way score, Panov firing from downtown and Brown doing the same from seven-meters then adding a layup to extend the guests' margin to 41-55. Unicaja called timeout, and Garbajosa finally got back on track late in the quarter, but not enough to stop two opportunistic baskets by the guests. A put-back by Monya and Savrasenko's tip-in extended CSKA's margin to 45-61 entering the fourth quarter.
Unicaja needed to improve its offense quickly in the last quarter. Risacher stepped up with a fastbreak layup and Vazquez scored in the paint to give Unicaja some hope at 49-61. But Andersen silenced the crowd with a four-meter jumper, and Granger added a floating layup to keep CSKA out of trouble at 51-65. Unicaja did not give up, however, as Vazquez dunked to make it a 10-point game, 55-65, with 5 minutes to go. CSKA called timeout, but Vazquez was unstoppable at both ends of the floor. He had a three-point play and added a big block and an outstanding reverse layup to pull Unicaja within 60-67 with 3 minutes to go. But Brown then sealed the win with 3 consecutive mid-range jumpers, allowing CSKA to enter the final minute ahead by 62-73 and cruise to its sixth Euroleague win of the season.
Wednesday, December 8, 2004