To those who wondered how CSKA would win without Darius Songaila and Chris Gatling, the answer out of Moscow on Wednesday was heard loud and clear: defense, with a capital D. Or to put it more bluntly still, CSKA executed a 73-45 lock-down on visiting Idea Slask Wroclaw. That point total for Polish champs was the second lowest in the three-year history of the Euroleague, following Union Olimpija's 73-40 win over London Towers in the 2001-02 regular season. Wednesday's result means that CSKA retains a stranglehold on first place in Group C with a 6-1 record, while Idea Slask falls to 2-5 and will remain in last place. CSKA was led by J.R. Holden and his 13 points, while Alexander Bashminov, Theodoros Papaloukas and Nikos Hatzivrettas added 11 apiece. But this was a story of defense. With few shots falling in the first three quarters for either team, one key was rebounds, and CSKA finished with a 36-25 edge on the boards thanks to 13 from young forward Victory Khryapa, who also had 2 of CSKA's 5 blocked shots. For Idea Slask, the only one to get through the CSKA defense consistently was Andrius Giedraitis with 12 points. Slask got 17 of its points at the free throw line, but was otherwise limited to 8-for-25 two-point shooting (32%) and 4-for-15 on threes (26%).
The start game was marked by the presence of Victor Alexander in CSKA's starting five and lack of accuracy on both offensive ends. It wasn't until minute 3 when Holden broke the monotony with a fastbreak. From that point, the progress was slow but steady for both sides. Idea Slask tried long plays and fastbreaks, but had enormous difficulty to score from any angle. CSKA, meanwhile, found enough rhythm to jump to 10-2 edge midway through the quarter. Holden tried to take the scoring resonsibility for CSKA, but his lack of efficiency, mainly from the arc, deprived his team from pulling away farther. It also gave the guests a chance to start biting into the deficit, basket by basket until 10-8. Aleksander Koul and Alvin Jones were not having much luck under the boards, but Dainius Adomaitis would tried to fix that from 6.25 meters to keep Idea close at 13-11. Nikos Hatzivrettas, who had been hiding until that point, scored 4 straight points in a burst to finish the quarter, giving CSKA another substantial lead, 17-11, after 10 minutes.
The second quarter was an exaggerated version of the first, as Idea Slask started trying to run, but counted turnovers as often as baskets, while Holden kept shooting from downtown, until on went in for CSKA's first double-digit lead of the night, 24-14. Andrius Giedraitis soon became the main offensive source for the guests, quickly rising to 8 points but Pawel Wiekiera would score tha last points for Idea in the quarter from the three-point line for 26-19. The problem for Idea was that the quarter had plenty of time, enough for CSKA to nail a 10-0 run until the break, almost doubling the scoreboard at 36-19. Holden had 11 points by then, but the good defense of Alexander and Victor Khryapa had forced Idea into 4-for-14 shooting on two-pointers. That was clearly reflected in a scoreboard that would send Idea to the locker room looking for a way to score, somehow.
Idea Slask stepped back on-court appearing to have learned the lesson and forged a 0-7 run including a three by Wiekiera that changed scoreboard to 36-26. CSKA completely ran out of ideas in front of the Polish defense, and managed to score through free throws only. But Slask didn't know how to take full advantage of the situation. After a few plays, the hosts still owned a 12-point lead, 40-28. Randy Holcomb tried to lead his team on a comeback, but all his approaches to the basket were met with fouls by the CSKA big men. Shooting percentages remained low, especially on Idea Slask's side. That allowed CSKA Moscow stay ahead at 43-32 after 30 minutes, despite having scored only 7 points in the quarter.
The whole atmosphere of the game was broken in the last quarter when CSKA scored 7 straight points with fastbreaks that ended in dunks and a three-point play by Papaloukas, who was in charge of the point in the second half. Idea Slask though, was on with its poor shooting night, and only Adomaitis, nailing 3 consecutive free throws, was there. Every point was hard work for the visitors, who find now way in the paint crowded with CSKA defenders. A quick three by Sergei Monya and another fastbreak by Khryapa broke the game open, 59-35. The last minutes were a formality as CSKA looked forward to some more time as sole owners of first place in Group C.
Wednesday, December 4, 2002