Coming off the most successful year in club history, CSKA Moscow starts 2007 by hosting difficult Elan Bearnais Pau-Orthez on Wednesday at 18:15 CET. CSKA (8-1) has been unstoppable in Group C so far this season but its only Euroleague loss so far came against Pau (4-4), who beat the reigning Euroleague champion 73-67 in November. Britton Johnsen (14.4 ppg., 42.9% 3FG, 95.7% FT) led the way that night with 18 points while Michael Wright (17.4 ppg., 5.2 rpg.) added 15 for Pau, while David Andersen (10.6 ppg., 80% 3FG) had 20 points for the perennial Russian League champion. CSKA has not lost a Euroleague home game since January 4, 2006, is on a 10-game Euroleague winning streak at Universal Sports Hall and won its last 14 games in its own arena combining all competitions. The hosts' main concern will be slowing Johnsen and Wright, as Pau runs its entire offense through them. Johnsen is a natural-born mismatch due to his size, speed and athleticism, but he may well have a nice test againt Andersen. Meanwhile, Wright is a pure post player who will test his aggressivity against Aleksey Savrasenko (7.2 ppg., 67.4% 2FG), Tomas Van den Spiegel (3 ppg.) or above all, Matjaz Smodis(14.3 ppg., 47.1% 3FG), who is in top shape recently and ready to keep shining in 2007. Pau will have to worry about rebounding, as well as slowing Theodoros Papaloukas (10.2 ppg., 5 apg.), who leads CSKA coming off the bench. Papaloukas is the main player of a star-flooded perimeter featuring combo guard J.R. Holden (8.2 ppg.), defensive ace David Vanterpool (6.9 ppg., 1.7 spg.) or sharp shooter Trajan Langdon (13.2 ppg., 5 rpg.), who is helping his team a lot under the boards this season. Langdon will test his scoring skills against C.C. Harrison (9.5 ppg.), while Papaloukas will go against Aaron Miles (9.6 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 4.2 apg.) and Xane D'Almeida (1.8 apg.). Meanwhile, Vanterpool is have the chance to prove his all-around game against another versatile, wise forward like Ricardo Greer (8.3 ppg., 6.3 rpg.). If Miles can set a high game tempo, players like Johnsen and explosive swingman Michael Bauer (10.7 ppg., 1.1 bpg.) can put CSKA in trouble. Even with that, CSKA is the heavy favourite for this game, as it will look to take revenge for its only Euroleague loss of the season. Pau knows how to beat CSKA, however, so expect a tough battle in Moscow.
Tuesday, January 2, 2007