Defending Euroleague champion CSKA Moscow showed its "A" game in the final five minutes to hold off hosts Cibona for a 63-73 win in Zagreb on Wednesday, the champs' fifth victory in six Top 16 games in Group H. CSKA already clinched the group last week and can now look forward to a Quarterfinal Playoff series against Serbian champion Partizan. Cibona finished the Top 16 with two victories and four defeats, good enough for a third place in the group. Center Erazem Lorbek had another solid performance to lead CSKA in scoring with 15 points, Matjaz Smodis netted 14 points, while Trajan Langdon and reserve Victor Keyru added 12 points apiece. Keyru saw extended playing time - a career-high 18 minutes - because of Ramunas Siskauskas's injury and Viktor Khryapa's ejection in the first half. CSKA's Croatian guard Zoran Planinic had 6 points in his first-ever game against Cibona, his original team. Alan Anderson paced Cibona with 18 points and 8 rebounds, Davor Kus notched 12 points, while big man Nikola Prkacin surprised everyone by hitting 2 three-pointers, having only made 2 other triples in his nine-season long Euroleague career.
CSKA coach Ettore Messina chose a big starting lineup with Khryapa at small forward instead of Siskauskas. Smodis was at the center of attention in the beginning of the game, blocking Cibona's first shot and the opening the scoring with a baby hook. After a number of misses on both ends, Anderson attacked the rim for a three-point play in transition, before Lorbek made a put-back for a 3-4 lead for the guests. Earl Calloway and Langdon exchanged two-point shots. Then Lorbek made a power move inside and dunked of a Khryapa assist to make it 5-10. After a Cibona timeout, Anderson fed Prkacin for a reverse layup and Vedran Vukusic added another basket inside. J.R. Holden drilled a tough jump shot, while Calloway went to the free-throw line to cut it to 11-14. Planinic made the game's first triple, and CSKA defended well on the first quarter's last possession to end it at 11-17.
Planinic used his size to post up his defender, scoring a layup and then drawing a foul at the start of the second quarter. Terrence Morris added a bucket, and Nikos Zisis a three-point play as CSKA more than doubled Cibona on the scoreboard: 11-25. Cibona went inside to Prkacin, who threw it back to Kus for a long two-pointer. Marin Rozic, Kus and Vukusic nailed three-pointers in less than two minutes for the hosts, but since CSKA was scoring, too, Cibona didn't get closer than 22-32. Smodis and Holden gave CSKA more points, while Khryapa was dominating on defense with blocks and rebounds. Reserve Keyru hit a corner triple to expand the advantage to 22-39. CSKA was in full control, but then Khryapa helped Cibona back in the game. After he was whistled for his third traveling call of the quarter, Khryapa lost his temper and started arguing with the referees, receiving a technical foul and then an ejection. Anderson made all 4 free throws, and then drew a foul to hit 2 more. After a basket on each end, Anderson finished the first half with another pair from the free-throw line to make it 35-41.
Smodis found a wide-open Langdon, who made the third quarter's first basket from downtown. Jared Homan scored a two-pointer before Smodis hit 2 free throws for a 37-46 CSKA lead. Then Anderson drilled a three-pointer from the wing and Rozic attacked the basket with a fierce drive. Cibona switched to zone on defense, but Smodis found a cutting Lorbek for a dunk. Anderson pulled down an offensive rebound and dished to Rozic, who trimmed the difference to 44-48. Keyru hit a baseline jumper from the right side, but Prkacin brought the crowd to its feet by scoring a rare three-pointer - his third in nine Euroleague seasons. It was 47-52 after free throws by Smodis, when Prkacin attempted and hit his second three-pointer of the night. Kus got a clear look to tie the game at the third-quarter buzzer, but couldn't get it to fall, and CSKA was up 50-52 with 10 minutes to go.
Kus matched Keyru's layup with a jumper at the start of the fourth quarter, and on Cibona's next possession, Kus nailed a triple that gave Cibona its first lead since the game's third minute: 55-54. Langdon needed only seconds to answer with a triple of his own, and then Keyru copied that to make it 55-60. Kus found space for a layup and Vukusic tied it at 60-60 with another Cibona three-pointer. Keyru made a perfect cut to score a layup, before drawing a charge on defense. Holden used a screen to drill an off-the-dribble triple, and now it was 60-65 with 3:40 left on the clock. CSKA stopped Prkacin with a double-team inside, and Holden sent the ball to an open Lorbek, who didn't miss from the baseline. Anderson came through with a tough three-point play to cut the score to 63-68 with just over two minutes to go. On the following possession, Langdon drew Anderson's fifth foul and made both free throws. Holden beat Cibona's press to find an open Smodis, who denied Cibona's hope with a smooth triple.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009