|CSKA Moscow will aim to take a 2-0 lead in its best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs series when it hosts Partizan Belgrade in Game 2 on Thursday. CSKA’s iron-clad defense was at its best in Tuesday’s series opener as it set a number of records in controlling the pace of the 56-47 victory. CSKA held Partizan to a playoff record 3 points in the opening period as it jumped out to a controlling lead. The 47 points allowed were also a playoff record, as were the combined 103 scored by both teams. CSKA never trailed, but was unable to pull away due to a woeful shooting night from outside. CSKA, the league’s best three-point shooting team this season entering the game, finished 2 for 22 from downtown. The heroes for the hosts were Erazem Lorbek, who established an inside presence early en route to 16 points, and reserve forward Viktor Khryapa, who totaled 8 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks – much of which came in the fourth quarter as the reigning champs fended off Partizan’s late rally. The visitors walk away from the game with some hope after outscoring CSKA by 1 over the final three periods. Partizan will hope that a better effort over the full 40 minutes on Thursday will result in a different outcome. One are Partizan will look to fix is its scoring in the paint as only one member of head coach Dusko Vujoevic’s frontcourt shot better than 50% (Jan Vesely – 3 for 3). Partizan, one of the league’s top rebounding clubs, managed only 8 offensive rebounds and was matched 34-34 by CSKA on the glass overall. Partizan averaged 15 offensive rebounds and outrebounded CSKA by a total of 30 in their two previous meetings this season. One advantage that Partizan can look forward to in Game 2 is fresher legs: No visiting players came close to playing 30 minutes while three CSKA starters played more than 33. That could help the Partizan backcourt of Milenko Tepic, Aleksandar Rasic and Uros Tripkovic against the likes of J.R. Holden and Trajan Langdon. However CSKA;s bench still features the likes of Zoran Planinic, Nikos Zisis and Euroleague MVP Ramunas Siskauskas, who all saw limited action in Game 1. Likewise in the paint, even if Erazem Lorbek (37 minutes) tires, a fresh Terence Morris is waiting in the wings to team with Matjaz Smodis against Partizan’s Novica Velickovic, Stephane Lasme and Vesely. It’s hard to imagine CSKA struggling from outside again regardless of Partizan’s defensive strategy, a fact combined with CSKA’s home court advantage makes head coach Ettore Messina’s men favorites to win Game 2.
- The best individual performance of Zoran Planinic’s career came in Belgrade against Partizan. Planinic scored a career-best 30 points on 5-for-5 three-point shooting for Cibona Zagreb in an 81-76 loss at Pionir Hall in November 2001.
- Planinic is 1 assist away from tying Willie Solomon for 25th place on the Euroleague Basketball career assists charts. Planinic enters Thursday’s playoff game with 257 career assists.
- Guard Nikos Zisis is 6 assists behind Panathinaikos guard Dimitris Diamantidis for 10th place on the Euroleague Basketball career charts in that category. Diamantidis, who is currently injured, has 351 career assists.
- Guard Uros Tripkovic has made at least one three-pointer in 15 consecutive Euroleague games. He is shooting 43.3% from downtown over that span. He ranks second in the league this season with 40 triples. (39 of 90)
- Milenko Tepic’s best all-around game of the season came in the win over CSKA in Moscow. Tepic produced 13 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists to lead Partizan to the win.
- The magic number for Partizan has been 80 points. The Serbian champs have won 11 of the last 12 games in which they have scored at least 80.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009