The second victory by a Euroleague team in NBA Europe Live came easier than expected on Saturday when defending champions CSKA rolled to a 94-75 decision over the Los Angeles Clippers before a sellout crowd of 5,000 proud fans at CSKA Universal Sports Hall in Moscow
. CSKA controlled the game throughout, allowing the visitors only a single-possession lead in the first half. A 31-19 difference in the second quarter pushed along by the play of young newcomer Anton Ponkrashov supplied CSKA with double-digit leads that lasted the rest of the game. Trajan Langdon led seven CSKA double-digit scorers with 17 points. Tomas Van Den Spiegel popped for 16 more, Matjaz Smodis and David Vanterpool 14 each, Ponkrashov 11 and Theo Papaloukas 10 to go with 9 assists. CSKA was credited with 17 assists to just 2 for the Clippers, who got a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds from Chris Kaman. Corey Maggette added 13 points and Tim Thomas 10 for the visitors. The victory came in the first game ever played by a Russian club against an NBA team. CSKA continues its NBA Europe Live participation with games on Tuesday and Wednesday in Cologne, Germany. Its first opponent is Maccabi Tel Aviv, in a rematch of last season's Euroleague title game.
The crowd was excited from the start, chanting CSKA's name, but both teams started off cold. Smodis then got CSKA rolling with a three-pointer after 90 seconds. Almost a minute later, Elton Brand put the Clips on the board with a foul-line jumper. Van Den Spiegel dunked and J.R. Holden drained another triple as CSKA retained an 8-7 advantage. CSKA's defense swarmed, and after a steal in the paint, Vanterpool finished a tough fastbreak layup to make it 12-7. The Clips remained cold from the field. The energy in the arena was palpable as the CSKA fans could sense the visitors from L.A. were in for a tough night against the Euroleague champs. Van Den Spiegel continued to hurt the Clips inside, drawing a foul off a pick-and-roll feed from Theodoros Papaloukas and nailing foul shots for a 14-7 advantage. The Clips fought back, however, cutting it to 14-11 after Shaun Livingston passed Papaloukas for a sweeping one-handed jam. CSKA padded the lead, however, as Papaloukas and David Andersen played more pick-and-roll and CSKA newcomer Anton Ponkrashov nailed a three-pointer to make it 21-14. The Clips managed to trim the difference with 4 free throws from Livingston, leaving a 21-20 lead after 12 minutes.
Early in the second quarter, Tim Thomas evened the score at 22-22 with a drive down the lane for the Clips. After Smodis made one free throw, Corey Maggette scored to give the Clips a 23-24 lead, their first and last of the game. Langdon responded with a jumper from the wing and, after a CSKA timeout, Andersen got into the act, drilling another to make it 27-24. Andersen nailed another jumper before Brand's free throws and Cuttino Mobley's got the Clips within a point agin, at 29-28. But Papaloukas struck back for CSKA, getting a layup-plus-free throw. He then pierced the Clips' defense with assists to Smodis and Van Den Spiegel that put CSKA up 36-30 with 4:30 left in the half. After a Sam Cassell jumper, Ponkrashov went to work at the other end for a post-up basket. Cassell hit back with two foul shots, shaving the CSKA lead to 38-34. Ponkrashov soon went to the hoop again, drawing contact and kissing the ball in off the glass. When he dropped the free throw, CSKA was up 42-34. After a Clips timeout, Langdon nailed a jumper and a triple before Papaloukas brought the crowd to its feet with a drive and dunk to give CSKA its first double-digit lead, 49-39. With the last possession of the half, Papaloukas found Ponkrashov, who drained a three-pointer to put CSKA in charge, 52-39 at halftime.
CSKA continued attacking in the second half, with Smodis drawing Kaman's fourth foul, but then matching that by charging into Thomas on offense. The Clips' perimeter shooting woes continued, while CSKA continued hustling and clamping down on defense, where on consecutive plays, Vanterpool made a diving save and Langdon drew an offensive foul, Quinton Ross's fourth. When Thomas hit a jumper to make it 55-43, Langdon hit right back with a three-pointer which he repeated shortly to up the CSKA lead to 61-45. The Clips kept misfiring and CSKA kept rolling. Vanterpool took Brand off the dribble and drew the foul, sinking free throws that put CSKA up 20 points, 65-45. The Clips responded with 7 straight points that included a triple by Thomas. After a timeout, Andersen got CSKA back on track, sinking a fadeaway jumper. Papaloukas kept driving and feeding, dishing to Van Den Spiegel underneath for a two-handed jam. Langdon and Maggette traded free throws before Van Den Spiegel scored again down low to provide a 73-57 CSKA advantage after 36 minutes.
Despite scoring the first 5 points of the fourth quarter, the Clips couldn't manage to make a serious dent in the CSKA lead. Smodis fed Van Den Spiegel for a silky reverse layup at 81-66, and despite Maggette slamming back a rebound, Papaloukas converted his trademark sneaky drive over Kaman on the subsequent possession. CSKA managed its lead with cold precision as Papaloukas found Langdon underneath for a layup that made it 87-68. CSKA refused to let up on defense, as Smodis forced Livingston into a turnover, while Andersen was perfect on the foul line to make it 90-71 with under 3 minutes left. The crowd took the blowout in stride, with warm applause for a job well done as CSKA head coach Ettore Messina emptied his bench. When Vanterpool's turnaround in the paint landed during the final minute, CSKA's lead topped 20 points, at 94-73, making it more than clear which was the better team on Saturday. CSKA head coach Ettore Messina
"Obviously I'm very pleased with the win, but more importantly, I'm pleased with the way we played. We played team basketball, and this is why we are happy. We're looking forward to the season. We know the way we have to play well to be successful. Of course, everybody understands that the Clippers are at the beginning of their preparation and that we need to stay extremely humble, because there will be a lot of other challenges." CSKA guard Theodoros Papaloukas
"It was a big moment for CSKA, because after many years an NBA team finally came back to Russia. We showed we were a very good team, even though both teams are at the beginning of the season. This was a big chance for us to play an NBA team, and I think everybody was concentrated and focused. Right now we're going to celebrate and rest tomorrow, because it's not often you beat an NBA team and we have to go to Cologne to finish this tournament." CSKA guard David Vanterpool
"The most important thing for our team is to keep getting better, and tonight everybody got a chance to see what our team is capable of when we play together, move the ball and play good defense. It's great to beat and NBA team. But our goal was not to win against the Los Angeles Clippers in October. Our goal is to defend our Russian championship and our Euroleague championship." Los Angeles Clippers head coach Mike Dunleavy
"Their team played extremely well, and they should be proud of the way they handled us. We know it was going to be a very tough game, and in no way did we take them lightly. For us, coming in with four days to get ready, we had a lot of respect for them. We knew what they could do. And unfortunately, we couldn't stop it. I think they have a lot of talent. They play really well together. I love how hard they play, how hard they cut. Based on today's performance, I think they'd win a lot of games [in the NBA]." Los Angeles Clippers forward Elton Brand
"We knew exactly what they could do, and unfortunately for us, they did it. It's still early for us, and we have lots of work to do. We tried hard, but they executed extremely well. There were definitely flashbacks [to Japan] with Papaloukas. He really distributes the ball to guys. It's uncanny. But we didn't feel any pressure to represent U.S. basketball. We were here for ourselves to prepare for the season." Los Angeles Clippers forward Corey Maggette
"We got outplayed today. We have to tip our hats to CSKA. They have a great corps of guys playing together. We have a lot of work to do to come out and be ready for the regular season."