CSKA took care of business in its first Top 16 game by beating Olympiacos 80-66 in Moscow on Wednesday night. CSKA dominated the opening game in Group D by controlling the rebounds, including 16 on the offensive glass, and playing aggressive defense that resulted in 13 steals. J.R. Holden led the winners with 18 points on 3 of 3 two-pointers and 4 of 8 threes, also dishing 7 assists. Marcus Brown had 15 points and 8 assists, while Mirsad Turkcan had 11 points and 9 rebounds, 7 of them in the offensive end. Victor Alexander added 10 points, all in the first half, for CSKA. Christos Harissis led all scorers with 21 points on 4 of 6 two-pointers, 3 of 5 three-pointers and 4 of 4 free throws for the Reds. He was the only player for Olympiacos to score in double digits, as Panagiotis Liadelis chipped in 9 for the guests.
In the first period, CSKA showed good balance between the perimeter and the frontline players. Alexander and Holden were the duo of the quarter. Alexander scored the first basket of this year's Top 16 and proceeded to rebound well, too. Holden made a spectacular three-pointer in the first half of the period. The motor of the Reds was Liadelis. The Olympiacos playmaker tried to make his teammates play as fast as possible, and as a result the score was even almost throughout the quarter. CSKA surged ahead a couple times, on a 6-0 run to lead 11-7 and then, matching that difference on a fastbreak slam by Turkcan that made it 15-11. After that, however, Olympiacos made a 4-9 run highlighted by a Liadelis triple, and it took Brown answering from downtown on the buzzer for CSKA to even the score, 20-20, after 10 minutes.
Olympiacos improved its defense early in the second, limiting CSKA to just 4 points in more than 5 minutes. CSKA, meanwhile, was trying to stop Olympiacos with a zone defense, but the Reds decided to solve that problem with the fastbreaks. Twice in as many minutes Boris Gorenc finished with easy layups as the Reds took a 24-28 lead. CSKA answered back from the perimeter, including a triple from Brown, and also put more attention in its defense after coach Dusan Ivkovic called time out. Olympiacos, who had played until then with almost the same lineup, twice failed to shoot before the 24-second clock expired. Those defensive stops and 5 points from Sergey Panov helped CSKA to make a 12-2 run which Theodoros Papaloukas finished with a shot near the buzzer for a 39-32 home lead at halftime.
CSKA started the second half at full speed, as Turkcan, with a layup and Holden, with a three-pointer, extended the lead to 44-34. Dalibor Bagaric and Christos Harrisis were the only solid contributors for the visitors, and brought Olympiacos back within 48-40. But that was as close as the visitors would come in the second half. CSKA used a game-breaking 10-3 run in which Papaloukas and Sergei Monya fired one triple apiece from beyond the arc to extend its lead to 58-43. The hosts' lead peaked at 64-45 after a dunk by Brown, but Ruben Wolkowysky and Harissis cut the difference to 64-49 after 30 minutes.
It was do-or-die time for Olympiacos, but CSKA gave no chance to the Reds, as back-to-back layups by Holden and Brown opened the lead to 68-49. Harissis and Brown exchanged three-pointers, but the Reds failed to cut CSKA's lead below double digits. A three-point play by Ioannis Kalambokis got them closer, at 73-59, with 5 minutes to go, but Olympiacos went scoreless for more than 3 minutes while a three by Holden and a layup by Dragan Tarlac were enough to ensure safe lead, 78-61, and allow CSKA some extra points in case they are needed further along in the Top 16.
Wednesday, March 3, 2004