Euroleague defending champion CSKA dominated its first home game of the season as it held off visiting Aris TT Bank 83-68 in Group C on Wednesday. CSKA improved to 2-0 in the group standings while Aris dropped to 1-1. It was the first official game between two historic European clubs since 1989. CSKA started the evening by honoring retired captain Sergei Panov in a pre-game ceremony. He retired over the summer after helping CSKA win its first Euroleague title in 35 years as well as 12 Russian League titles. His former teammate Matjaz Smodis led the winners with 19 points, including 12 in a first quarter that gave the champs early leads. Theodoros Papaloukas and J.R. Holden each had 13 points for CSKA. Papaloukas shot 6 for 6 and dished 6 assists, while Holden made the key shot as Aris tried to rally late. Mike Wilkinson and Savas Iliadis each had 14 points for Aris.
Aris opted to use a small starting five with Giorgos Sigalas at power forward guarding Smodis. David Vanterpool opened the scoring with a left-handed driving layup, but a free throw by Wilkinson and a long jumper by Iliadis gave Aris its first lead, 2-3. Smodis answered from downtown, but apart from him, both teams struggled to score at this point. Smodis scored around the basket, then Spyros Panteliadis made free throws to get Aris within 7-5. Vanterpool took over now with a triple from the right wing as CSKA ran its offense through Smodis. Serapinas hit a three-pointer in response for Aris, and Jeremiah Massey came off the bench to nail a two-pointer to keep Aris in the game at 12-10. CSKA went right baack to Smodis, who followed a triple with a long jumper, but Iliadis got back two baskets for Aris. Holden did the same in penetration, however, to give CSKA a 21-14 edge. Wilkinson and a red-hot Smodis exchanged shots, and even after Iliadis found a driving layup, Holden beat the buzzer with a fastbreak basket for a 25-18 CSKA lead after 10 minutes.
Papaloukas beat the Aris zone defense with a three-pointer to give CSKA its first double-digit lead, 28-18, to open the second quarter. Massey answered around the basket but Holden hit one from downtown coming off a screen and Papaloukas followed with an acrobatic layup for a 33-20 CSKA margin. Aris called timeout to fix its offense and Iliadis returned to nail a long jumper to which Terrell Castle added an off-balance three-point play, pulling the guests within 35-25. CSKA struck back, however, as Langdon hit a free throw and Smodis added a jump hook to keep CSKA ahead, 38-25. Aleksey Savrasenko stepped up with consecutive baskets that stopped Aris's comeback attempts. Papaloukas shined with a driving layup and then fed Anton Ponkrashov for a fastbreak basket, good for a 17-point CSKA lead at 46-29. Sigalas fired in a three-pointer, which highlighted a 0-5 Aris run, but Ponkrashov scored again to preserve a 48-34 CSKA edge at the half.
Sigalas banked in a three-pointer right after the break but CSKA kept rolling anyway. Vanterpool was all over on defense, making back-to-back steals as Smodis scored in the low post and Holden on a fastbreak to make it 52-37. Wilkinson hit a jump hook that Vanterpool matched with a layup. Aris struggled against CSKA's trademark man-to-man defense, which didn't allow any open shots and forced the guests into long possessions. Meanwhile, Holden fed Smodis for a a fastbreak dunk, good for a 56-39 CSKA lead. Wilkinson tried to change things with a baseline jumper but he didn't find much help. Ponkrashov hit 4 straight free throws and Papaloukas added consecutive fastbreak layups, forcing an Aris timeout at 64-46. Kevin Fletcher buried one from downtown but Savrasenko and Ponkrashov answered for a 67-49 CSKA margin after 30 minutes.
Wilkinson tried to ignite an Aris comeback with free throws, but CSKA kept dominating the game with outstanding defense. Meanwhile, Papaloukas fed David Andersen for consecutive power layups, the second coming with an additional free throw. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf hit a jumper for Aris, but Andrei Vorontsevich shined with a layup-plus-free throw to make it a 20-point game, 75-55. Aris finally improved its offense, as Iliadis stepped up with a three-point play, Abdul-Rauf added one from downtown and Castle hit free throws to get guests as close as 75-63 midway through the final period. After a CSKA timeout, Wilkinson put back an offensive rebound and Abdul-Rauf bombed from downtown to cap a 1-13 run that pulled Aris within 8 points, 76-68, with 2:30 to go. Then, however, Holden buried a fallaway jumper off an inbounds play while Papaloukas drove off a pick-and-roll for a basket. Aris did not recover after that, and CSKA sealed its first home win of the season.