Unicaja climbed back to the fight for a spot in the Quarterfinal Playoffs with a 72-67 win over CSKA Moscow on Wednesday at the Martin Carpena Arena in Malaga, Spain. Daniel Santiago scored 20 points as Unicaja won its 16th consecutive Euroleague game in Malaga and avenged a defeat to CSKA in the semifinals of the 2007 Final Four in Athens. The win was Unicaja’s first of the Top 16, but also brought it within one win of first place. Meanwhile CSKA, which dropped to 2-1 in Group G, saw its five-game winning streak snapped and lost for the first time in the Top 16 since 2006. Unicaja made its move early, hitting 5 first period three-pointer to take the lead for good. Santiago dominated inside as the lead reached double figures early in the second period on a Davor Kus triple. But Ramunas Siskauskas caught fire in time to close the gap to 39-33 at halftime. Marcus Haislip teamed up with Santiago to wear down the CSKA frontline in the second half as the duo scored all the points in a 9-0 run giving Unicaja a 54-35 lead. But Theo Papaloukas wouldn’t let his team quit. CSKA rallied back to 10 late in the third quarter. Still CSKA couldn’t get any closer than 7 as Unicaja stood tall at both ends in the final period. Just as it seemed CSKA had accepted defeat, J.R. Holden drilled a three-pointer that cut the lead to 72-66 with a minute to play. But the Russian champs missed their last 4 field goal attempts and Papaloukas only made 1 from the line, allowing Unicaja to record the win. Haislip added 10 points and Jiri Welsch finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds for Unicaja. Siskauskas paced CSKA with 12, Trajan Langdon scored 11 and Papaloukas and Holden netted 10 each. Papaloukas also dished 5 assists in defeat.
Unicaja controlled the opening tip and looked to make a statement with an attempted alley-oop to Haislip. Even though it didn’t work, he grabbed the rebound, kicked it out and eventually wound up drilling a three-pointer to open up the scoring. On the very next Unicaja possession, Welsch hit from downtown as the hosts took control. Marcus Goree finally got CSKA on the board. After the first two long balls, Unicaja went scoreless for three minutes during which Goree tied the score at 6-6. Terrel Castle then struck from downtown, but David Andersen’s basket-plus-foul kept things even. Carlos Jimenez was the next to triple for the hosts and Andersen matched again, this time from beyond the arc. Over seven minutes passed before Santiago scored Unicaja’s first two-point basket of the night. He would add a tip-in and later 2 free throws as the hosts went up 4. Langdon hit a jumper for CSKA, but Berni Rodriguez dilled his team’s fifth three-pointer of the period to settle the score a 21-16 after 10 minutes.
Santiago picked up where he left off with a hook and then a two-handed slam to start the second period, leading to a CSKA timeout. Langdon banked in a basket off an inbounds play for his team’s first points of the period. As Santiago cooled down with a few misses and a turnover, Kus stepped up with a triple to give Unicaja its first double-digit lead, 28-18. Langdon remained CSKA's only source of points, adding a three-pointer. At the other end, German Gabriel converted a three-point play and soon after a Castle steal and break away turned into an unsportsmanlike foul on Viktor Khryapa who tried to catch him from behind. The resulting free throws from Castle and then Gabriel boosted the lead to 37-23. Andersen responded from downtown, making him the first CSKA player other than Langdon to score in the period. Soon Siskauskas got going and CSKA started to trim the gap. Goree capped a 2-10 run with a bucket in the paint to make it 39-33 at halftime.
After Goree missed inside for CSKA, Castle netted a mid-range jumper to start the second-half scoring. Santiago soon restored a 10-point lead from the line, only to see Holden pull up for a quick hoop at the other end. But Santiago remained unstoppable and after a tip-in and more free throws, the lead was up to 47-35. Haislip scored from the blocks and then Santiago powered his way through two CSKA defenders to give the hosts their biggest lead yet… until Haislip drilled a triple that capped a 9-0 run and made it 54-35. A basket by Tomas Van den Spiegel and a Papaloukas triple showed signs of life from the visitors. Van den Spiegel added another score in the paint and Papaloukas netted 2 from the line as the visitors stormed back. Siskauskas added a free throw to cap a 2-11 run before Welsch’s drive ended the period with the hosts ahead 58-46.
Van den Spiegel, playing with four fouls, remained aggressive, drawing fouls on the offensive glass and netting 4 free throws. NDong hit a foul-line jumper and Haislip drove on Goree for a basket-plus-foul to restore a promising Unicaja lead, 63-50. Holden came right back with a triple, and after Kus's free throws, added another clutch basket. Then Langdon canned a long jumper to make it 65-57. Van den Spiegel committed a louse-ball foul after dropping a pass in the paint and needed to take a seat. However Papaloukas remained in charge, going coast to coast to cut the gap to 7. Santiago's 20th point extended the lead and after Papaloukas only made one from the line, Welsch drew a foul from Papaloukas and made 2 to give Unicaja a 10-point lead again with 2:17 remaining. CSKA seemed ready to accept the defeat as it played long and thoughtful attacks as if it were more concerned with minimizing the damage for a potential tiebreaker than gambling on a win. But when a Holden three made it 72-66 with a minute to go, that changed. Papaloukas would get it to 5 with 27.1 seconds to go, but no closer as Unicaja ran out the clock to earn the win.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008