CSKA is one step away from its dream of playing the Final Four in its own city after downing Ulker 88-74 at home in Moscow on Tuesday in the first game of their best-of-three quarterfinal playoff series. CSKA can now advance to the Final Four with one more victory as the series moves to Game 2 in Istanbul on Thursday. A third game, if necessary, will be next Thursday, April 14, in Moscow. Ulker, despite staying close during much of Tuesday's game, is now in a do-or-die situation and can only win two games to stay alive. Marcus Brown led CSKA with 16 points. Demos Dikoudis added 13 and 8 rebounds, J.R. Holden 12 and 5 assists and David Andersen 11 points for the winners. Serkan Erdogan led Ulker with 17 points, but had just 4 after halftime. Dusan Vukcevic added 11 while Saulius Stombergas, Kerem Gonlum and Eurelijus Zukauskas each put up 10 for the guests. CSKA broke the game with a 15-2 run in the final minutes of the first half. Even when Ulker managed to get as close as 65-59 in the last quarter, Sergey Monya stepped up with 6 quick points and Holden took over in crunch time to assure the victory.
Zukauskas worked down low for a basket to open the game, then Erdogan nailed a three-pointer over Andersen for a 0-5 Ulker lead. Antonio Granger answered with a triple from the right wing as CSKA adjusted its man-to-man defense, but the hosts struggled to score as Zukauskas rejected shots by Andersen and Dikoudis. Meanwhile, Kerem Tunceri slashed for a reverse layup and a 3-7 Ulker lead. Granger started CSKA at last with a driving layup that Andersen followed with a short jumper and a put-back for the home team's first lead, 10-9, to which Dikoudis added another shot from the paint. Zukauskas rolled from a pick for a layup in the paint, but Andersen answered with a basket-plus-free throw for a 15-11 CSKA edge. Ulker struggled now to find decent shots, but not Dikoudis and Andersen, whose back-to-back baskets made it 19-13. Ulker did not panic, however, as free throws by Zukauskas, a fastbreak layup by Erdogan and a short jumper off an inbound steal by Vukcevic tied 19-19 before Brown's free throw to give CSKA a minimum lead, 20-19, after 10 minutes.
Brown and Tutku Acik exchanged three-pointers to start the second quarter. With the scoring pace slow after that, Theodoros Papaloukas came off the bench and immedietaly penetrated for a basket. Brown added free throws to give CSKA a 27-22 lead, but Erdogan came up with answers for Ulker. He followed a short jumper in the paint with an incredible catch-and-shoot triple while cutting the difference to 30-28. When Zakhar Pashutin tried to wake CSKA up with a driving layup, the red-hot Erdogan answered with a jump shot for 32-30. That's when CSKA started taking over, however. Papaloukas followed a layup off a steal with a three-point play to give CSKA some fresh air at 37-32. While the hosts managed to slow Erdogan, Andersen landed a left-handed layup and Martin Muursepp free throws. Muursepp then followed Pashutin's basket with a reverse put-back layup for CSKA's first double-digit lead, 45-34. Meanwhile, Ulker was stalled as CSKA's defense held it to 2 points in over 4 minutes. Free throws by Muurseep and Holden capped a 15-2 run that made it, rather suddenly, a 15-point game, 49-34, at halftime.
Ulker tried to get back in the game right after halftime, as free throws by Stombergas, a jump hook by Gonlum and an inside basket by Zukauskas brought the guests within 51-40. Granger put CSKA back in track with a three-pointer, but Stombergas immediately answered from downtown, forcing a CSKA timeout at 54-43. Ulker excelled in defense now, but its shooters were off-target, so the guests couldn't complete their rally, even though Fatih Solak scored in the paint and red-hot Stombergas nailed a triple off a screen to make it 54-48. Brown stepped up with 4 of 4 free throws to keep CSKA ahead, 58-50, after 26 minutes. Erdogan and Stombergas kept Ulker within striking distance with jumpers that made it 60-54. Dikoudis added a free throw and Monya a big dunk in traffic to help CSKA retain a lead of 9 points, 63-54, after 30 minutes.
One of several long possessions to start the final quarter ended with Solak tipping in a shot, but Andersen's offensive rebound allowed Brown to hit a floating jumper for a 65-56 CSKA lead. Ulker wouldn't die, however, as Virginijus Praskevicius nailed a triple from the wing for a six-point difference, 65-59. Monya's three-point play helped CSKA even as Ulker suffered severe foul trouble, with Gonlum, Stombergas, Zukauskas and Praskevicius already on 4 fouls apiece. Coach Ergin Ataman had to play with little-used Ersan Ilyasova, while Monya provided another highlight with his second dunk. Ulker struggled to score, as even Erdogan missed twice from the free throw line, but Gonlum scored twice around the basket gave the guests some hope at 71-63 with under 5 minutes to go. Holden now became CSKA's go-to guy, scoring in penetration and feeding Dikoudis for a driving layup that forced an Ulker timeout at 75-66. After that, CSKA got a tip-in by Muursepp and a stop-and-pop jumper from Holden that sealed the outcome, a 1-0 lead in the quarters, and one victory from reaching the Final Four!
Tuesday, April 5, 2005