CSKA Moscow took one step closer to its dream of reaching a Final Four in its own city this spring when it vaulted into the new playoff quarterfinals on Thursday with an 89-73 victory over visiting Real Madrid in Group E. The victory means that CSKA, whose record is now 4-1, will finish either first or second in Group E and be matched with the opposite Group D qualifier in the next round. A victory by Winterthur FCB on Thursday against Scavolini would guarantee CSKA first place. Madrid, with a 1-4 record, is eliminated. CSKA showed no signs of doubt a week after its first defeat of 2003-04: quite the opposite, in fact. With runs of 0-9 and 0-11 to start the first two quarters, respectively, CSKA established huge leads that Madrid never really threatened. CSKA had five scorers in double digits led by Marcus Brown with 21 points. David Andersen added 14, J.R. Holden and Demos Dikoudis posted 13 apiece and Antonio Granger added 11. For the guests, Mous Sonko led the way with 19 points and Louis Bullock added 16.
CSKA came out and smothered Madrid with man-to-man defense while pushing the ball inside to Andersen and Dikoudis on its way to a 9-0 run capped off by a three-point play from Brown. After 3 minutes had passed, Burke dropped a running hook shot for Madrid's first basket, but soon Brown drilled the game's first shot from the arc to make it 14-3. Even while Dikoudis stretched the lead to 20-7 with consecutive baskets, Madrid managed to limit the damage after on a couple more shots by Burke. Brown wasn't done yet, however, and scored again driving to the basked in the final half-minute, hitting the additional foul shot for a 26-11 lead. After a Madrid timeout before the last possession of the quarter, Bullock corralled an offensive rebound and knocked down a short jump shot on the baseline to set the difference at 26-13 after 10 minutes.
CSKA started the second quarter much as it did the first, going on a 11-0 run behind the frenetic defense of Marcus Brown, who energized the crowd by blocking a three-point attempt by Alberto Herreros, chasing down the loose ball and dunking to boost the lead to 30-13. Madrid started to find its rhythm, however, after Bullock made technical free throws from a foul that CSKA's Theodoros Papaloukas picked up for a scuffle. After the foul shots, Madrid went on a 3-13 run behind the marksmanship of Bullock, who buried 2 three-pointers and another pair of free throws to cut the CSKA lead to 40-28. CSKA turned it on again in the last couple minutes. Martin Muursepp started moving the lead back up again from the foul line and then finished CSKA's response with a triple from the left corner as the buzzer sounded, leaving a 50-32 scoreboard at the break.
CSKA once again jumped all over Madrid to start the third quarter. This time, it was Holden who drilled 2 three-pointers as the lead ballooned to 56-36. After Antonio Bueno got a basket for Madrid, Brown started the last, decisive CSKA run with a three-point basket-plus-foul and ended it with a triple from the arc that gave the hosts a 64-38 margin. Again, after free throws from Bueno, CSKA rattled off 6 more unanswered points between Papaloukas, Brown and Andersen to push the lead out of sight at 70-40. A couple minutes later, Andersen supplied the night's high lead of 76-45 on a tip-in before Herreros connected on a three-pointer that left the difference at 77-51 after 30 minutes.
If it appeared to be a matter of time for CSKA to finish off the visitors as the fourth quarter began, Madrid was not ready to quit, starting instead with a 0-7 run on baskets by Herreros and Felipe Reyes. After a CSKA timeout, Granger got his team rolling again with the highlight play of the game, driving the baseline and for a monster two-handed dunk to push the CSKA lead back to 79-58. CSKA maintained its comfortable 20-point cushion, 81-61, and Madrid took a timeout with just under 5 minutes to play in hopes of making one last run. Antonis Fotsis drilled a three-pointer coming out of the timeout to cut the CSKA lead to 81-64, but that was the closest the visitors would come again. CSKA finished the game with five Russian players on the court as the fans in Moscow enjoyed arriving one step closer to what they hope will be an appearance by their team in the Final Four that the city hosts in little more than a month.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005