CSKA downed difficult Unicaja 86-78
A change of competition round did not alter the momentum of one of the Euroleague's hottest teams as CSKA opened Group G of the Top 16 by downing difficult Unicaja 86-78 in Moscow on Wednesday. It was CSKA's eighth consecutive victory after it finished the regular season with seven in a row. Unicaja, on the other hand, has lost four of its last six games. Ramunas Siskauskas led the winners with 23 points on 4-of-5 three-pointers and 5-of-5 free throws. Trajan Langdon added 19 on 5-of-8 triples while Viktor Khryapa had 12, 13 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks for CSKA. In his Euroleague debut, Juan Dixon led Unicaja with 17 points. Robert Archibald added 16, Georgios Printezis had 14 while Jiri Welsch got 12 for the guests, who trailed 19-10 early. Unicaja rallied in the second quarter and managed to tie before Andrey Vorontsevich helped CSKA take a 42-38 halftime edge. Langdon and Siskauskas took over after the break propel CSKA to a 67-57 advantage with more than 8 minutes left. Printezis and Dixon brought Unicaja back to life at 82-78 with a minute left, but a big three-pointer by Langdon and a block by the outstanding Khryapa allowed CSKA to seal the outcome.
Unicaja coach Aito Garcia Reneses surprised everyone at the tipoff by giving teenage big man Augusto Lima his first Euroleague start, to guard Khryapa. Dixon also started in his Euroleague debut. Archibald got the guests going with a hook shot and Dixon added a step-back jumper for a 0-4 Unicaja lead. Siskauskas answered with a driving layup and Sasha Kaun dunked to tie 4-4. CSKA adjusted its man-to-man defense, double-teaming Dixon often. Langdon finished a long CSKA offense with a seven-meter bomb for a 7-4 score. Unicaja was silent for more than 3 minutes until Dixon downed a fastbreak layup. Planinic posted up Cook for a basket and, after Dixon hit a running jumper, fed Khryapa for a dunk. A jump hook by Kaun soon made it a five-point game, 13-8. Unicaja could not find Archibald in the low post but he stepped out for a mid-range jumper. Back-to-back triples by Siskauskas boosted CSKA's lead to 19-10. Joel Freeland tried to open the court with a triple for Unicaja, but the visitors could not get Printezis involved due to Khryapa's outstanding defense. A free throw by Pops Mensah-Bonsu and a second-chance basket by Freeland fixed the score at 20-15 after 10 minutes.
Printezis scored down low early in the second quarter but a dunk by Mensah-Bonsu gave CSKA a 22-17 edge. With its starting five resting, Unicaja tried to run its offense through Printezis and Freeland. Langdon answered with a bomb from downtown as CSKA tried to improve ball circulation with point guards J.R. Holden and Anton Ponkrashov together on court. Welsch beat the shot clock with a three-pointer and Dixon added an acrobatic jumper to get Unicaja within 25-22. Holden rescued CSKA with a triple but Printezis and Archibald kept Unicaja going until another Welsch three-pointer tied it up, 30-30. CSKA kept running its offense through Langdon, who inked a corner three-pointer. Welsch answered from downtown but Siskauskas kept the hosts ahead at 36-33. CSKA kept using twin point guards to let Holden guard Dixon. After Kaun picked up his third foul, Unicaja looked for Archibald in the low post against Dimitriy Sokolov. Dixon nailed a long jumper that Andrey Vorontsevich bettered with a triple and a fallaway jumper as CSKA took a 42-38 advantage into halftime.
Langdon buried his fourth three-pointer immediately after the break but Welsch quickly sank a jumper to keep Unicaja within 45-40. CSKA kept attacking the basket, as Siskauskas took over with a layup-plus-free throw. Printezis scored in transition, as Unicaja tried to get its big men involved. A free throw by Archibald and a tip-in by Printezis kept the guests within 50-45. CSKA kept going to Langdon and Siskauskas, who fed Vorontsevich for an easy dunk. Archibald scored down low for Unicaja but Planinic and Khryapa shined with driving layups in a 6-0 CSKA run that gave the hosts their first double-digit margin, 58-47. After Unicaja called timeout to try to solve CSKA's attack, Printezis beat the shot clock with a corner triple. Unicaja's 3-2 zone defense with Carlos Jimenez on top worked as a jump hook by Freeland made it 58-52 and CSKA called timeout. Freeland kept pacing Unicaja with a dunk but Vorontsevich and Siskauskas beat the guests' zone defense with consecutive backdoor layups. Unicaja had trouble scoring now while Siskauskas nailed an unbelievable triple for an 11-point CSKA lead, 65-54. Unicaja tried to hang on as an off-balance three-pointer by Rafa Freire lowered the difference to 65-57 after 30 minutes.
Unicaja kept struggling to score early in the fourth quarter, as CSKA did not allow Archibald to receive easily. Meanwhile, Langdon's six-meter jumper restored a double-digit lead, 67-57. Unicaja improved its defense right when it mattered, and Dixon sank a floating jumper that Archibald followed with a put-back layup at 67-61 with 7 minutes left. CSKA could not find a way to the basket as a wide open three-pointer by Printezis brought Unicaja back to life at 67-64. Khryapa provided a highlight with an off-balance jumper and the free throw that came with it. Archibald responded with a monster dunk that Kaun matched with a jump hook, good for a 72-66 CSKA edge with over 4 minutes to go. Welsch fed Freeland for a two-handed dunk but Holden quickly answered from the corner with a killer triple. Dixon followed a tough jumper with a three-pointer, however, to keep Unicaja within 77-73. Siskauskas downed a critical corner triple, then CSKA forced Dixon to step out of bounds. A layup by Jimenez and a triple by Cook brought Unicaja back to life at 82-78 with 1 minute left. That's when Landgon sealed the outcome with his fifth three-pointer, allowing all CSKA fans to celebrate a big win at the end of an outstanding Euroleague game.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010