Did somebody say that Group C had endless combinations for the Top 16? Well, it has some more now as CSKA of Moscow made a giant step towards the second phase with a comeback 82-86 road win at Real Madrid. CSKA's victory lifted its record to 8-5 and dropped Madrid's to the same. But with Pau-Orthez and Skipper Bologna waiting in the wings, there was a silver lining for Madrid. By keeping the losing deficit to 4 points, it already classified for the Top 16, because even losing next week and entering a hypotherical four-way tie for second place, it will end up with the top point difference between those four (Madrid, CSKA, Pau-Orthez and Skipper Bologna). Madrid showed once again that its injury situation is badly timed, with a third loss in a row at the end of the season and a final trip to Panathinaikos (11-1) remaining. CSKA did what it had to, and was once again led by its twin stars. Mirsad Turkcan put up 24 points and Gordan Giricek 23, while the key third contributor was Curtis McCants with 16. For Madrid, Dragan Tarlac had 21 and Iker Iturbe added 15.
The game began with both teams running up and down the court with explosive fastbreaks, to an early 6-5. In minute 5, the score was 8-10 and Turkcan had already scored 7 of the points of his team when Madrid build a 6-0 run to forge a 4-point lead, 14-10. The period ended with Madrid in the lead by 5, 22-17 but Alberto Angulo was injured on his leg and had to stop playing to be tested at halftime.
The second quarter was more or less the same as the first: fastbreaks and quick plays, with constant runs for both sides. Thus, CSKA came back from 36-28 to 36-34 in one minute, and the reply from the Whites came in form of an 8-0 run including a three-pointer by Iker Iturbe who was a total nightmare from the 6.25 line for the Russians (he ended the game with 3 of 4 threes), to reach the double-digit lead with 44-34. Alberto Herreros also came back on court even though he was exepected to play a few minutes only, and ended the game with 3 points in 22 minutes. The teams hit the locker rooms with a 47-40 score for the Whites, who had hit 5 of 7 threes in the first two quarters.
After the break, CSKA came back stronger into the game, as Real Madrid looked lost on court under point guard Toñin Llorente's conduction, and with Herreros missing all his shots was it from inside or outside. More and more, Alberto Angulo didn't go back to the court due to his injury. It was then when the key of the game arrived with a 0-10 run by CSKA led by Giricek, from 57-47 to 57-57 that drove coach Sergio Scariolo crazy. The Russians were back into the game. Giricek kept leading the guests in the offense, to end the third quarter with a 13-19 partial score that put 60-59 on the scoreboard.
The final period was a nightmare for Madrid even though Dragan Tarlac did his best to keep the Whites ahead, but Giricek again pulled his team in the lead with 68-75 in minute 35. Real's last breath came with a three by Lucio Angulo that put the 73-78 score to climb to 79-82 with 20 seconds to go. It was then when Iturbe made a pass that selaed the game as he threw the ball across the paint which was plagued with CSKA's players, who stole the ball. Two free throws by McCants turned into 79-84, an impossible deficit for the Spaniards. In the end, 82-86.
Thursday, February 07, 2002