CSKA Moscow survived yet another tough test to become the first team to make it to the Top 16 when rallied to beat Panathinaikos 75-72 at home in Moscow on Wednesday night. CSKA improved to 9-0 and remains the uncontested leader in Group C, while Panathinaikos dropped to 5-4, good enough for at least a third-place tie. CSKA rallied in the final period despite playing without starting center David Andersen, sidelined due to an injury. Dimos Dikoudis led CSKA with 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting and pulled 7 rebounds. Marcus Brown added 18 points for the winners, but Theo Papaloukas was the man of the game, scoring all his 9 points in the final period to help CSKA overcome an eight-point deficit. For Panathinaikos, which led most of the game, Fragiskos Alvertis had 14 points on 4-for-4 three-point shooting. Tracy Murray added 13 points and Vlado Scepanovic 11 for the guests. CSKA stays unbeaten in all official competitions, extending its winning streak to 22 games between the Euroleague and the Russian league.
CSKA started the game at full speed, with strong defense and a fluid offense. J.R. Holden fed Alexei Savrasenko for a dunk, Brown added a three-pointer and Dikoudis fired in a couple of mid-range jumpers to give CSKA a 9-1 lead after 3 minutes. Panathinaikos needed a go-to guy and Batiste obliged. His dunk ignited a 0-6 run in which he had another basket that brought the Greens within 9-7. Brown got CSKA back on track, drilling a mid-range jumper and adding his second hit from beyond the arc as his team doubled Panathinaikos on the scoreboard, 14-7. After a timeout, Panathinaikos improved its aggressiveness, looking for second-chance options, but Holden and Brown scored around the basket to help CSKA keep a 20-13 edge after 10 minutes.
Sergei Panov opened the second period with a three-pointer, pushing CSKA's lead to double digits at 23-13. It took the Greens almost 2 minutes to score, when Nikos Hatzivrettas stepped up with a mid-range jumper. Martin Muursepp immediately answered with an easy basket, as the game turned into a defensive battle - until Murray stepped on court. The hosts now struggled to score, while Scepanovic stepped up with a basket-plus-foul right before Panathinaikos began its three-point exhibition. Murray, Giorgios Kalaitzis and Fragiskos Alvertis drilled one shot each from downtown in a 1-17 run that turned the game on its head. Scepanovic had 7 points along the way as the Greens surged ahead 31-37 late in the half. Dikoudis and Alvertis exchanged jumpers for a 33-39 Panathinaikos lead at the half, by which time the guests had outrebounded CSKA 8-16.
Panathinaikos kept a small lineup early in the third quarter, with Alvertis giving headaches to CSKA's defense at the power forward spot. A mid-range jumper by Granger brought CSKA within 37-41, but Murray matched that at the other end. Both teams exchanged baskets for a while, as a long jumper by Scepanovic and a second three-pointer by Alvertis boosted the Greens to a 41-48 edge. CSKA started to lose its patience on offense against the Greens' organized defense, as Patrick Femerling grabbed one defensive rebound after another. Dikoudis followed Holden's layup with a big three to make it a two-point game, 46-48, but free throws by Murray and a three-pointer by Batiste gave the Greens some fresh air. Again, Panathinaikos finished the quarter strong, as Jaka Lakovic drilled 2 technical foul shots, fed Kostas Tsartsaris for a basket-plus-foul and added his own layup for a 52-60 margin after 30 minutes.
CSKA needed a quick comeback to get back into the game and as usual, Theodoros Papaloukas delivered for the hosts. He stepped up with a layup and fed Dikoudis for an easy basket, while Holden capped a 7-0 run with a three-pointer to bring CSKA within 59-60. A put-back layup by Hatzivrettas finally got Panathinaikos going, as Scepanovic followed it with a basket in penetration to extend the Greens' edge to 59-64. Sergei Panov immediately answered from downtown, while Papaloukas broke 2 scoreless minutes with a three-point play to put CSKA back in front, 65-64, with 4 minutes to go. The game turned into a thriller once Alvertis tied the game in crunch time, 69-69, with a big three-pointer. CSKA did not panic, however, as Papaloukas - who else? - and Brown stepped up with back-to-back layups for a 73-69 margin already with under 2 minutes remaining. Panathinaikos called timeout, but a put-back by Dikoudis sealed CSKA's win and made it the first team in the Top 16!
Wednesday, January 5, 2005