CSKA needed one of the most unbelievable comebacks in Euroleague history to edge Lottomatica Roma 72-71 in Moscow, Russia in the Top 16 Group G opener for both teams. Trajan Langdon became the home-team hero by nailing the game-winning triple at the buzzer to preserve CSKA's 25th consecutive home win. Langdon's unbelievable shot completed a 12-point comeback in little over 2 minutes since CSKA was down 56-67. Langdon paced the winners with 22 points. Theo Papaloukas added 16 on 4-for-4 two-pointers, 2-for-2 three-pointers and 5 assists while Ramunas Siskauskas had 10 points for CSKA. Roko-Leni Ukic and Erazem Lorbek each had 13 points for Lottomatica while David Hawkins and newcomer Ibrahim Jaaber added 12 each for the guests. Roma did not trail during the last three quarters until that final shot. The guests seemed to have sealed the outcome when Lorbek hit free throws for a 64-69 lead with 44 seconds remaining. Langdon and Papaloukas stepped up with consecutive baskets while Papaloukas had the chance to tie the game with 5.2 seconds to go at 68-70. He missed his second shot and CSKA fouled Jaaber, who also missed his second attempt. The rebound was tipped to J. R. Holden near halfcourt, and he had time to find Langdon running alone. Langdon stopped at the top of the three-point circle and fired the triple through cleanly to save a major home win for CSKA in thrilling fashion
Roma surprised everyone by starting Jaaber a couple days after he was signed, but Siskauskas owned the early going, hitting a pair of running jumpers for a 4-0 CSKA lead. Lorbek got the guests on the board with a pop-out triple, then Jaaber followed his own miss to put Roma ahead 4-5. Langdon drove for a couple of layups and David Andersen hit free throws to put CSKA back in front, 10-5. Ukic went coast-to-coast for 2 more baskets to keep Roma close. Tomas Van den Spiegel appeared for CSKA with a huge block that led to free throws for Langdon. Ukic answered with a big triple to tie, 12-12, before Viktor Khryapa entered and got to the foul line twice, but missed all 4 free throws, a theme that would come to hurt CSKA later. Hawkins took advantage with a post-up for a Roma lead, but Papaloukas blasted a corner triple to finish the first quarter with CSKA ahead again by the bare minimum, 15-14.
Jaaber drove in a crowd for a go-ahead layup to open the second quarter, then converted a steal by Hawkins with a big triple to make it 15-19. Papaloukas steadied CSKA with a steal and layup, then another on the fastbreak to tie 19-19. Gregor Fucka pulled a rare offensive rebound, put it back and made the bonus free throw to keep Roma on top. Defenses ruled to the tune of 8 steals per team until then. Langdon busted Roma's zone from downtown to tie again, 22-22. Ukic penetrated to break that tie, then Roberto Gabini's shot from the arc made it 22-27 and forced a CSKA timeout. The hosts couldn't break Roma's defense, however, as Jaaber finished a fastbreak and Hawkins stole and made a free throw for a 22-30 scoreboard that silenced the Moscow crowd. Langdon stopped the bleeding with a tip-in that came with a free throw. Single free throws by Papaloukas and Marcus Goree got CSKA within 27-30 before Fucka's inside basket was matched by Langdon's free throws, leaving a 29-32 scoreboard at the half.
CSKA kept struggling to score after the break, as Roma limited the hosts to a free throw during 2 minutes while Rodrigo De La Fuente made it 30-34 Roma. Goree kept pacing CSKA with a big basket in the paint, as the hosts improved their defense when they needed it most. Andersen made free throws to tie the game, 34-34. Lorbek sank a mid-range jumper that J. R. Holden matched at the other end to find his first points. Roma did not panic, however. Ukic fed De La Fuente for a fastbreak layup that Alessandro Tonolli followed with a three-pointer, good for a 36-41 lead. Andersen sank his trademark baseline jumper but CSKA kept missing open shots and could not run the pick-and-roll in the high post either. CSKA head coach Ettore Messina called timeout but Tonolli insisted from downtown for a 38-44 Roma edge. CSKA got points on the offensive boards, while Khryapa followed a layup with a five-meter jumper to get the hosts within 42-44. Lorbek hit a turnaround jumper off a Roma timeout while Ukic fired in a three-pointer to give his team a 42-49 margin. A second-chance layup by Jaaber and free throws by Siskauskas fixed the score at 44-51 after 30 minutes.
CSKA tried a very aggressive 2-3 zone defense right at the start of the fourth quarter. Holden boosted the hosts with a layup-plus-free throw, but De La Fuente matched it with a three-pointer to keep Roma ahead 47-54. Papaloukas scored around the basket and even when Lorbek answered in the other end, Langdon buried a triple from the right wing to keep CSKA as close as 52-56. Goree hit a close-in jumper that Hawkins matched to keep Roma ahead, 54-58. Hawkins stepped up again with a five-meter jumper while Lorbek added a smooth layup in the low post to give the guests a 54-62 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Hawkins took over with another jumper that capped a 0-6 run and boosted Roma's lead to double digits, 54-64, with 4 minutes to go. Holden hit a free throw but Hawkins provided a highlight with a reverse layup at 55-66. Time was running out for CSKA, but Siskauskas and Papaloukas stroked from downtown to get the hosts within striking distance, 64-67, with 1 minute remaining. Lorbek hit free throws and even when Roma had three blocked three-pointers on the same possession, Langdon finished it with a jump hook to keep CSKA close at 66-69. Ukic hit a free throw while Papaloukas answered with an uncontested layup for a 68-70 score with 11.9 seconds to go. A turnover by De La Fuente allowed Papaloukas to draw a foul with 5.2 seconds to go, but he made only the first of his free throws. Jaaber rebounded the second and was fouled with 4.6 seconds left, but he missed the second shot for a 69-71 score. The rebound was tipped to Holden at midcourt, and he passed to Langdon, who calmly buried the game-winning, seven-meter, buzzer-beater to seal one of the most incredible comebacks in Euroleague history!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008