It took some extra effort on its home court, but CSKA became the only team to finish the first half of the Euroleague Regular Season undefeated when it came from behind to beat Opel Skyliners 86-82 in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday night in Group C. CSKA is now 7-0, while the Skyliners dropped to 2-5 despite leading for much of the first three quarters. Antonio Granger led the winners with 18 points, 13 of them in the pivotal third period, when CSKA regained the lead for the first time since the opening basket. Marcus Brown added 14 points, David Andersen 13, J.R. Holden 12 and 6 assists while Martin Muursepp had 11 points for CSKA. The man of the game, however, was Chris Williams of Opel, who came within one steal of registering the first triple-double ever in Euroleague history. He finished the game with 30 points, 11 rebounds, 9 steals and 4 assists, and scored 14 points in the final period to keep his team within a missed three-pointer of tying at the finish. Tyrone Ellis added 21 points and Pascal Roller 12 for Opel.
Both team started slow and missed several shots until a jump hook by Williams and a three-pointer by Mladjen Sljivancanin gave the Skyliners a 2-5 lead after 3 minutes. CSKA missed 5 shots until Andersen stepped up with a four-meter jumper, while Ellis answered from downtown and Williams added a basket for a 4-10 Opel lead. The hosts called timeout after Roller drilled another three-pointer to cap a 0-8 run that put the guests up 4-13. Andersen tried to wake up CSKA with a mid-range jumper, but Robert Maras matched him with a reverse layup for Opel CSKA needed a go-to guy and Holden took over with back-to-back three-pointers. Roller followed free throws by Williams with his own strike from downtown to retain a 14-20 Skyliners advantage after 10 minutes.
Williams opened the second period with a basket-plus-foul and Hasan Ozkan fired in a three-pointer to give the Skyliners its biggest lead yet, 16-26, but a three-pointer by Zakhar Pashutin boosted the hosts. CSKA started to rule the boards and play with short possessions for baskets in the open court. As such, Muursepp scored a layup and added free throws and Granger hit a three-pointer in a 10-0 run to a 26-26 tie. The Skyliners didn't score for more than 3 minutes until Sljivancanin buried a shot from the arc, after which Ellis took over with 7 quick points, including a fastbreak triple that restored a 28-36 Opel lead. CSKA got back on track with a breakway dunk by Pashutin. Muursepp followed free throws with a corner three at the buzzer to bring CSKA within 36-38 at halftime.
Roller fired in a big three early in the third quarter and Williams added a short jumper for a 38-43 Skyliners edge. CSKA kept struggling against Opel's man-to-man defense, but the Skyliners stopped scoring, too. Brown in penetration and Theo Papaloukas with a layup emerged for CSKA to tie the game at 44-44, but Ellis and Williams combined for 8 points, including a triple each, as the guests surged ahead again, 47-52. After a CSKA timeout, Granger drove the baseline for a basket-plus-foul, but consecutive jumpers by Ellis and a triple from the corner by Spyros Panteliadis sustained the Skyliners. But not for long. Granger caught fire now, following a three-pointer with free throws to bring CSKA back within 58-59. Free throws by Aleksey Savrasenko and Sergei Panov and a corner three by Brown at the buzzer finished the comeback with CSKA ahead 64-61 after 30 minutes.
CSKA almost demoralized the guests as Holden and Brown hit three-pointers to to cap a mammoth 17-2 run with CSKA leading 70-61. But Williams wouldn't surrender. He fired back with a three-point play and a fastbreak dunk to bring the Skyliners within 72-66. A couple minutes later, he put together another personal run of 4 unanswered points to make it 74-70 with 5 minutes remaining. Andersen made free throws, but an unstoppable Williams answered with a tough layup, giving him all 11 Skyliners points in this quarter to that point. Then, after a timeout, Roller fired in a three-pointer and Ellis copied him to bring the Skyliners within 78-77 with less than 3 minutes to go. Andersen added a low post layup, but Williams - who else? - made 3 of 4 free throws for an 80-80 tie. Muursepp found his way to the basket for a layup, Ellis and Roller missed long jumpers, while Holden drilled a three from the top of the key for a 85-80 CSKA lead, now in the final minute. Ozkan scored near the basket, and Williams had a key mid-court steal, but Ellis and Sljivancanin missed three-pointers in the Skyliners' final possessions, while Papaloukas sealed CSKA's win in the final second.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004