Partizan Belgrade pulled off an impressive 63-66 upset over CSKA Moscow in the Russian capital to secure a berth to the Top 16 for the second year in a row. Petar Bozic came up big when it counted most, breaking the last of three fourth-quarter ties with a clutch triple and then stripping Trajan Langdon on the game’s final play to seal the win. The Serbian champs finish the regular season with a 5-5 record and fourth place in Group D. CSKA dropped to 7-3, but won the group nonetheless. The hosts looked to have the game under control with a 45-37 lead late in the third quarter, but Stephane Lasme ignited a 3-17 turnaround bridging the third and fourth periods to put Partizan in control. The last 10 minutes would feature five lead changes, but Partizan battled on both ends of the floor to hold on for the win. Aleksandar Rasic scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter – including a pair of clutch free throws with 4.3 seconds remaining – and dished 5 assists to lead Partizan. Milenko Tepic added 13 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, Lasme had 11 points and Slavko Vranes posted 8 points and 11 boards for the winners. Erazam Lorbek produced a season-high 23 points and 9 rebounds and Ramunas Siskauskas added 12 in defeat.
Partizan was aggressive from the very beginning, with Tepic darting inside for a basket before a Matjaz Smodis jumper put CSKA on the board. The visitors tried to go to Vranes inside and though he had some trouble finishing, Jan Vesely corrected it on the offensive glass as Partizan took a 2-6 lead and CSKA took an early timeout. Even after that, Rasic fed Vesely for a reverse layup and he then followed a Lorbek triple with one of his own. Tepic’s basket on the break made it 5-13. Lorbek and Vranes traded baskets before both sides shook things up with some substitutions. Zoran Planinic hit a long three to cut into the Partizan lead and a Langdon jumper made it 14-15. Uros Tripkovic’s triple extended the visitors’ lead to 14-18 at the end of the opening period.
Lorbek started the second period with a jumper and a minutes later Siskauskas’s three-pointer gave CSKA its first lead of the night. Lasme fixed his own miss, but CSKA has assumed control as Siskauskas made it 23-20. However a pair of Novica Velickovic baskets – the second a turnaround jumper rover Terence Morris – brought Partizan back. Sasha Kaun brought some energy off the CSKA bench and scored on the offensive glass. A few uncharacteristic errors held the hosts back, but Langdon came through with a jumper. Vranes tied the score with a basket on the offensive glass and after Planinic put CSKA ahead from the line, Tepic beat the buzzer with a three-pointer to give the Serbian champs a 29-30 halftime advantage.
Vesely scored to push Partizan further ahead only to see Lorbek tie the game from downtown. Tripkovic cancelled another Lorbek score with a three-pointer, but Siskauksas’s three and a Lorbek jumper put CSKA ahead 41-37. The visiting attack went dark for several minutes as Planinic drove over Vranes to stretch the champs’ lead to 6. And despite a Partizan timeout, Nikos Zisis buried a jumper to extend the CSKA run to 9-0. Tepic ended the bleeding with a free throw and after he missed the second, Lasme grabbed the rebounds and converted a three-point play to trim the gap to 45-41. Lasme next took the ball strong to the hoop, drew a foul and made 2 more from the line to bring his team within 45-43 with 10 minutes to play.
Rasic opened the fourth with a triple to cap a 0-9 run that put Partizan on top. Viktor Khryapa rifled in a three only to see Rasic feed Vesely for a power slam at the other end. A basket by Lasme in transition followed by a Velckovic score made it 48-52. And even after a CSKA timeout, Rasic scored on the break. Morris made a baseline jumper to give the hosts legs to stand on and Lorbek brought CSKA back within 2. Lorbek grabbed a miss from Zisis and scored to tie the game at 54-54 and the Zisis penetrated to complete an 8-0 charge and put CSKA back on top, but Rasic came right back with a three for Partizan. Lorbek knotted the game again with a free throw. Bozic picked a great time to sink his only shot of the night – a three that put the visitors on top again – and Tepic increased the lead to 5 on the break. Siskauskas narrowed the gap from the line, however Lasme’s two-handed jam with 1:11 to go ignited Partizan. Lorbek sank 2 from the line and then Langdon and J.R. Holden forced a steal from Bozic, but Langdon missed a three to tie the score. The CSKA defense denied Rasic and Siskauskas free throws brought CSKA within 1 with 12 seconds to play. Since CSKA was not yet in the penalty, Partizan was able to milk nearly 8 seconds off the clock before the hosts committed their fifth foul and sent Rasic to the line, He sank both with 4.3 seconds remaining to put Partizan ahead 63-66. CSKA called timeout to prepare one last play, but Bozic stripped Langdon before he was able to shoot and Partizan began a well-deserved celebration.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009