With yet another flawless defensive exhibition, CSKA Moscow remained unstoppable in Top 16 Group E and got closer to clinching a Quarterfinal Playoffs spot by thrashing Olympiacos 64-85 in Pireaus, Greece on Thursday. CSKA improved to 3-0 with its first road win of the second phase. Meanwhile, Olympiacos dropped to 1-2 and will have must-win games from now on. Matjaz Smodis led the winners with 19 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting and 6 rebounds. Theo Papaloukas added 15 against his former team, including 9 after climbing off the bench in the first quarter to give CSKA control of the game. J.R. Holden added 14 points, Oscar Torres 12 and Trajan Langdon 10 for CSKA. Sofoklis Schortsianitis had 13 points for Olympiacos while Andrija Zizic added 10. CSKA left no doubt about the outcome of the game in an outstanding first half, in which Holden, Papaloukas and Smodis simply took over. Olympiacos was limited to just 8 points in the second quarter, while a big triple on the buzzer by Smodis gave CSKA a 25-47 halftime margin. The Reds did not recover and CSKA left the floor as the uncontested leader in Group E.
Both teams started the game feeding the ball inside as Zizic connected for the hosts, Smodis and Savrasenko for CSKA. Its perimeter shooting did not work for Olympiacos, so Holden took his defender one-on-one to give CSKA a 2-6 lead. Again, the Reds’ big men bore offensive responsibility as Bouroussis and Zizic tied it 6-6. A flurry of triples followed as Holden, Bouroussis and Smodis struck from outside to make it 9-12. That's when former Olympiacos playmaker and Greek basketball hero Papaloukas climbed off the bench to applause by the home fans and took charge of the game. In just 2 minutes, Papaloukas nailed a three-pointer and then dunked on the break to make it 12-17. An assist from Papaloukas led to a triple by Holden at 12-20, and when he again found his way to the basket, Olympiacos coach Pini Gershon needed a timeout. Henry Domercant found his balance in mid-air to connect with a shot and Zizic went to the foul line to bring the hosts closer, at 17-22, but CSKA finished the quarter in stile, with Oscar Torres hitting from downtown and Papaloukas adding free throws for the biggest difference so far, 17-27.
Smodis fired in another triple to open the second quarter, while Domercant created room for a drive to make it 19-30. CSKA's defense was the key so far as the visitors managed to handle all of the Olympiacos offensive weapons, such as Alex Acker, Scoonie Penn and Sofoklis Schortsianitis. Furthermore, Olympiacos did not find any open court to run nor gun as CSKA completely controlled the rhythm. Based on their superb defense, the defending Euroleague champs reeled off an 0-8 run with Langdon and Papaloukas firing from outside the arc to make it 19-38. Four-and-a-half minutes of Olympiacos scoring silence were broken as Acker went for a layup. However, CSKA answered back with back-to-back baskets from inside as Torres and Savrasenko connected to double the scoreboard 21-42. Olympiacos went on struggling on offense, but managed to hold CSKA's tempo down with defensive until Schortsianitis and Acker scored. CSKA saved the last word for itself, however, as Smodis beat the buzzer with a killer triple to make it 25-47.
Schortsianitis opened the third quarter with a basket-plus-free throw, but CSKA again had answers with outside scoring from Langdon and Smodis to make it 30-52. Savrasenko and Scortsianitis exchanged baskets in the paint. It remained obvious that the visitors controlled the tempo and score, while Olympiacos had to put in a huge effort to come closer. Smodis continued to hurt Olympiacos, either from inside or outside, as the scoreboard moved to 34-57. Papaloukas nailed free throws to increase th elead, but Domercant and Vassilopoulos reacted at 39-60. Vassilopoulos added a three-pointer at 42-61 to make the home fans get loud, but Langdon was there to silence them immediately with an answer from the arc on another weak-side pass from Papaloukas, 42-64. David Andersen and Van de Spiegel finished an impressive high-low game with a dunk-plus-free throw by the latter to result the biggest difference so far, 44-69. Vassilopoulos and Vribca Stevanov popped in a triple each for Olympiacos, but it only helped reduce the differenc to 50-69 after 30 minutes.
Olympiacos came on court in the fourth quarter to play its last card. Christos Charissis made it 52-69, but then the Reds missed 5 straight opportunities, including a possession following a flagrant CSKA foul. After that, Smodis and Torres connected, while the latter finished an excellent alley-hoop pass by Holden with an impressive dunk to make it 77-54. The outcome was assured. The fans warm applause on that dunk showed the general respect for CSKA's great performance. Both teams lightened their game now over the 5 minutes till the final buzzer. Scoonie Penn’s first basket was a triple that made it 62-79. Papaloukas was substituted and given a last standing ovation by the Greek crowd as CSKA sailed away from Piraeus with an easy 64-85 win to confirm its unbeaten status atop Group E.
Thursday, March 1, 2007