Disregarding both injuries and a double-digit second-half deficit, CSKA Moscow rallied on the court of its closest challenger, Montepaschi Siena, to take a 66-69 victory and preserve first place in Group A on Wednesday. CSKA improved to 8-1, tying the best record of the regular season at the end-of-year break, while Montepaschi stays in second place at 6-3. Ramunas Siskauskas was the hero for CSKA, which played again without starters Matjaz Smodis and Alexey Savrasenko. Siskauskas piled up 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks, including one of a game-tying three-point attempt on the buzzer by Siena. David Andersen followed with 15 points and 8 rebounds for the winners, while Marcus Goree was right behind him with 12 and 9, respectively. Terrell McIntyre was Siena's sole double-digit scorer, with 13 points. Siena had controlled the game on either side of halftime and led by a high of 52-39 midway through the third quarter, but managed only 9 points in the final one as CSKA's defense proved decisive.
Siskauskas and defense gave CSKA quick early control. He challenged Eze at the rim for a three-point play, stole and went fullcourt for a layup, then posted up an 0-7 start that forced a Siena timeout after just 90 seconds. McIntyre revived the hosts then with a straight-up triple and Bootsy Thornton added 4 points to make it 7-9. Siskauskas reappeared with a layup and fed Andersen for a triple to make it 9-14, but McIntyre matched from the arc. Siskauskas went over 10 points with a jumper to beat the shot clock as CSKA's lead climbed to 12-17. Siena came fully awake, however, finding Eze inside for 5 straight points before Kaukenas drove hard for his team's first lead, 19-17. Langdon tied for CSKA from the lane, Kaukenas drove strong again to put Siena back in front, but a tip-in before the buzzer by Andrey Vorontsevich meant a 21-21 tie after 10 minutes.
To open the second quarter, Ksystof Larvnivoc and Andersen exchanged baskets in the paint before the lead changed back to Siena on Vlado Ilievski's stop-and-pop triple at 26-25. His jumper from the lane and one from the baseline by Eze gave the hosts their biggest lead yet, 30-25. CKSA could only get to the line then, while Ilievski scored again in the paint downed free throws to make it 34-26. J. R. Holden righted CSKA ship with a stand-alone triple, but after Tomas Ress and Thornton hit mid-range jumpers for Siena, Kaukenas hit a free throw and Lavrinovic tipped in the next one for a huge 41-29 advantage. Lavrinovic reappeared in the final minute to score falling down and preserve a double-digit Siena advantage, 43-33, at the break.
Stonerook kept Siena thriving with a long triple to open the second half, to which Sato soon added a jumper off an offensive rebound to make it 48-34. Siskauskas scored a triple to let CSKA breath again, but Sato stole and hit free throws for a 50-37 score. Andersen scored CSKA's first two-pointer in more than 10 minutes from the baseline, but Kaukenas penetrated for his own seconds later. Goree got loose inside for a tip-in and free throws that came with an offensive rebound, lowering the difference to single digits, 52-43. Andersen kept CSKA going with another jumper, and Siena watched Lavrinovic limp off the floor before Holden struck from downtown for a sudden 52-48 difference. Defenses held forth for awhile until McIntyre's triple all alone was answered with a short jumper by Andersen. Sato and Nikos Zisis traded baskets before Vorontsevich again stepped up with a huge triple that left a 57-56 score after 30 minutes.
Unexpectedly, Goree set up in the corner to complete CSKA's comeback with a triple to start the last quarter and soon added an inside bank shot to make it 57-61. After a quick timeout, Siena was saved by Thornton's desperation three-pointer off the glass to beat the shot clock at 60-61. Points were hard to come by on both sides now, but as the clock passed under 5 minutes, Holden got off a fall-away three-pointer that went in. He tried another that bounced out, but Goree put it back, and CSKA was clearly in charge now, up 60-66 with 3:20 to play. A minute later, Stonerook stopped Siena's bleeding with a swish from the corner, making it 63-66, and after another minute, Sato copied him from the opposite side for a tie. Every touch of the ball was crucial now, and CSKA ended up getting Siskauskas open with 3.5 seconds left for a triple. He was fouled by Sato and made all 3 free throws for a 66-69 lead. An exchange of turnovers left Montepaschi with the ball and 1.8 seconds left, and when Sato lifted up a three-point try, Siskauskas lifted higher and blocked it, sealing first place for CSKA at the holiday break.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007