It is hard to remember what Europe's signature basketball event is like without CSKA Moscow. The perennial contender has only missed one of the last 14 Euroleague Final Fours and with this year's qualification now owns the two longest Final Four qualification streaks. The first of those lasted eight years between 2003 through 2010. The second is the ongoing five-year streak that CSKA started in 2012.
If its consistency at Europe's most prestigious event is unprecedented, the offense that CSKA has unleashed on courts across the continent this season is nearly as historical.
On its way to Berlin, head coach Dimitris Itoudis's squad not only led the Euroleague in nearly every major offensive category, but also ranked among the top four teams this century all-time in several: performance index rating average (106.1 per game), scoring (90.7 ppg.), assists (19.7 apg.), three-pointers made (271) and three-point accuracy (42.3%).
Making CSKA's march to Berlin even more impressive is the fact that it lost more than 50 player games due to injuries among its regulars, mostly to center Joel Freeland and team captain Victor Khryapa. But a strong supporting cast was always there to step up.
CSKA cruised through the regular season with a league-best 9-1 record to clinch a spot in the Top 16, where it rose above the tightest ever playoff race and eventually won the group against fierce competition from powerhouses like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona Lassa, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz and Olympiacos Piraeus. Nothing could stop CSKA's offense, which broke the all-time Top 16 scoring record by posting 92.8 points per game.
Come playoff time, CSKA had the home-court advantage for the 11th time in as many playoff appearances. In the best-of-five series against Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade, CSKA did not have an easy time, but still managed to win in a sweep and become the first team to clinch a ticket to Berlin. Milos Teodosic shined with 23 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds and Kyle Hines added a career-high 21 points in an 84-74 Game 1 victory. Two days later, Hines posted 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting in a 77-76 squeaker. And in Game 3, Nando De Colo poured in 20 in Belgrade as CSKA won 71-78 to wrap up the series.
In Berlin, CSKA returns to the venue where it played its final game as a Euroleague champion. On that May 2009 evening, CSKA lost a dramatic championship game against Panathinaikos Athens when its last shot missed. Now, with only two active players remaining from its last Euroleague title team, Khryapa and Andrey Vorontsevich, a hungry new generation of CSKA stars are out to take back the crown.