CSKA Moscow started the Euroleague season on a high note by downing Prokom Trefl 69-88 in Sopot in the competition's opening game in Sopot, Poland, on Monday night. CSKA confirmed its status as the team to beat in Group A, while despite the loss, Prokom showed at times, especially in the opening quarter, it could be one of the surprise teams to go deep in the competition. Matjaz Smodis scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half to lead the winners. Nikos Zisis, who dominated early, added 15, Ramunas Siskauskas had 13 and David Andersen 10 for CSKA. Milan Gurovic led Prokom with 25 points while Donatas Slanina and Dajuan Wagner each had 10 for the hosts. The game marked the start of the 2007-08 season, which Euroleague Basketball devotes to 50 Years of European Club Competitions. Legendary Polish referee Wieslaw Zych and former CSKA Moscow captain Sergei Panov were the stars in a brief pregame ceremony that marked the first official event of the season, which will continue in Athens on Wednesday. Prokom led 16-9 early, but Zisis had all the points in a 0-10 run that put CSKA ahead for good. Siskauskas fueled another run of 10 unanswered points that broke the game open, 32-45, at halftime. CSKA boosted its margin to 50-69 after 30 minutes and then again to 58-84 with four minutes to go before leaving the court with an outstanding road win.
J.R. Holden was first to score in the 2007-08 season with a five-meter jumper, as Prokom missed 3 consecutive shots until Wagner stepped up with a mid-range jumper. Prokom looked for Gurovic as often as possible against Siskauskas. He made free throws and then banked in a triple to give Prokom its first lead, 7-4, after four minutes. CSKA struggled to score and Thomas Van den Spiegel capped a 7-0 run with a fast break dunk. Smodis and Wagner traded layups for a 11-6 score, as Theo Papaloukas stepped on court. Andersen drilled a triple, but Gurovic answered from downtown and Wagner made free throws to keep Prokom ahead, 16-9. CSKA called a much-needed timeout but the guests had no answers in offense now. Van den Spiegel had a huge block on Papaloukas but CSKA finally found a go-to guy in Zisis, whose back-to-back layups brought the guests back to life, 16-12, after 10 minutes.
Zisis kept pacing CSKA with a layup that stayed up on the rim for more than 5 seconds before falling in. The free throw that came with did and a three-pointer gave CSKA a 16-19 edge, after a 0-10 run in which he had all points. Gurovic and Papaloukas joined the three-point festival while Langdon nailed a step-back jumper for a 19-24 CSKA lead. Gurovic kept pacing Prokom with another basket but he didn't find much help. Meanwhile, Papaloukas buried a mid-range shot and Aleksey Savrasenko made free throws to keep the guests ahead, 23-28. Slanina shined with a fade-away jumper, which Savrasenko bettered with back-to-back layups. Prokom had already called timeout to adjust its offense. Slanina rescued the hosts with another jumper and Christos Harissis added one from downtown, as Prokom switched to a 2-3 zone defense. Zisis and Siskauskas punished it with respective triples in a 0-10 run that boosted the guests' lead to 30-42. A close jumper by Van den Spiegel, a free throw by Siskauskas and a floater from Holden fixed the halftime score at 32-45.
Gurovic tried to ignite a Prokom comeback with a jumper only to see Savrasenko match it with a smart move in the low post. Holden shined with a rainbow jumper allowing CSKA to keep a 13-point lead. Prokom now tried to power the offensive boards with Van den Spiegel and Tomas Masiulis on court, but CSKA found its groove on defense. Wagner took over with an off-balance reverse layup, as CSKA tried to slow down the tempo. Travis Best found his first points on a running jumper to give Prokom some hope at 40-49 after 24 minutes. Andersen hit a mid-range shot and then beat Masiulis one-on-one to keep CSKA ahead, 40-53. Prokom only managed to exchange baskets now, as Andersen nailed another three-pointer for a 42-57 CSKA margin. Prokom called timeout and Wagner stepped up with another incredible reverse layup, but CSKA kept dominating the game by going to the foul line often. Siskauskas made free throws and soon added a corner triple to give the guests another game-high lead, 44-62. Slanina and Siskauskas traded free throws before Papaloukas provided a highlight with a big dunk in traffic. Filip Dylewicz scored inside, but Smodis answered from downtown to boost the guests' lead to 50-69 after 30 minutes.
Smodis grabbed a loose ball and put it in right at the start of the fourth quarter, as Gurovic stayed on fire with yet another basket. Prokom needed to improve its defense right away, but could not manage to improve its offense. Meanwhile, CSKA had started to slow down the tempo to keep its lead alive. Smodis buried a triple from his favorite spot at the top of the key to make it a 22-point game. Marcus Goree also scored from downtown and even when Slanina stepped up with a long two-pointer, Prokom could not manage to regain its momentum. Van den Spiegel dunked it, but Smodis answered in the same way. Papaloukas kept running the show on offense, keeping everyone involved, while CSKA kept doing what it does best: destroy opponents with its outstanding man-to-man defense. Langdon became the seventh player to score from downtown and soon added a long jumper to seal the outcome, 58-84. Everything was said and done already, and even though Prokom kept trying, CSKA had already cruised to a massive road win.
Monday, October 22, 2007