CSKA Moscow has plenty of history from a positive standpoint and some serious history with Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. But the eight-time champs needed a massive fight to beat Maccabi and narrowly avert a losing record.
In a rematch of the 2006 and 2008 EuroLeague championship games and two EuroLeague semifinals, CSKA went back and forth against Maccabi and eventually prevailed 74-73 to snap a three-game losing streak. While a losing skid of three games might not seem like much to most clubs, they rarely happen for CSKA. And four straight losses? Only once in club history.
CSKA finished the 2004-05 season by losing both games at the 2005 Final Four in Moscow. CSKA then opened the 2005-06 campaign with two defeats. That’s it. That’s the only time CSKA has dropped four in a row - and it’s never happened during a single season.
Dimitris Itoudis’ team was fighting with continued injury concerns as well as the pressure of mounting losses and fears of further plunging down the standings - not to mention a Maccabi side that had stormed to five consecutive wins.
“We had a lot of tough games lately and they handled the pressure, they handled the difficulties, and they deserve a big congratulation,” said Itoudis, who watched a battle in which the biggest lead for either team was 5 points.
Despite all the big names on CSKA’s roster, it was Iffe Lundberg, Joel Bolomboy and an injury returnee in Marius Grigonis who carried the hosts to the win. Lundberg poured in 14 points, including 8 of them in the fourth quarter. The Danish guard hit a pair of big three-pointers midway through the frame to open some breathing space at 70-65. And his basket to make it 74-70 with over a minute to play ended up being the game-winner.
“We came in prepared to fight for 40 minutes and that’s exactly what we did tonight. And I’m just really really proud of the way that we stuck together throughout the game,” said Lundberg, who added 4 rebounds and 2 assists.
Bolomboy tallied 12 points and 6 rebounds - the fourth time in the last six games that the big man contributed at least 11 points and 5 rebounds.
“Man, it felt like a finals game. It was definitely a hard-fought game. We needed it,” Bolomboy said.
Grigonis added 10 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist in his first game with CSKA since the season’s opening round.
“Grigonis came and gave us 16 quality minutes, I didn’t expect that he would play that much. I thought 10 minutes would be enough for him but he was an X-factor at both ends, creating and scoring,” Coach Itoudis said.
The play-caller has been talking all season after games about injured players still missing and the adversity CSKA was going through. The team is not yet out of the woods, but at least the players and everyone in the club can breathe easier knowing that they avoided a negative history-making fourth straight defeat and can now look forward with some peace of mind.