CSKA Moscow beat Unicaja 83-91
CSKA Moscow put the finishing touches on just the third perfect regular season in the Euroleague this century by beating host Unicaja 83-91 on the road in Malaga, Spain on Wednesday. CSKA, which had already qualified for the Top 16 and clinched first place in Group B, added a bit of history by finishing 10-0. Only two other teams - CSKA at 14-0 in 2004-05 and Barcelona at 10-0 in 2009-10 - finished a regular season undefeated. CSKA made sure this time with relentless creativity from Milos Teodosic, who registered a double-double of 18 points and 10 assists. Nenad Krstic followed with 14 points, Anton Ponkrashov 13 and Alexey Shved 12 for the winners. Unicaja, which is also going to the Top 16, finishes with a 4-6 record in third place. The hosts got 16 points each from three players - Joel Freeland, Hrvoje Peric and Gerald Fitch - and 12 each from Luka Zoric and Mark Payne. Despite getting more rebounds and free throws, however, Unicaja couldn't stop CSKA's scorers, who stayed one step ahead all game.
Krstic scored for CSKA within seconds of the tipoff, on a short hook, while Freeland banked in a second-chance jumper. Free throws by Freeland gave Unicaja a 4-2 lead, but CSKA's ball movement - Teodosic to Darjus Lavrinovic for an open dunk, Ramunas Siskauskas to Shved for an equally open layup - sent CSKA ahead. Fitch hit free throws and Peric a baseline slam for Unicaja, but Shved did them one better with a quick put-back and a triple to make it 8-11. E.J. Rowland answered for the hosts, who kept pressing, but Teodosic and Lavrinovic picked up easy baskets at 10-15. Freeland made up all the difference with a triple and 2 free throws. Siskauskas hung in the air to put CSKA back ahead, then Nikita Kurbanov broke Unicaja's zone with a one-hander. When Fitch and Peric answered, however, it was tied again, 19-19. Fitch fired Unicaja in front with a fall-back jumper to which Augusto Lima added a free throw, but Siskauskas forged another tie from downtown. On the first quarter's last play, Mark Payne earned a free throw to give Unicaja a 23-22 edge after 10 minutes.
CSKA passers Teodosic and Ponkrashov found Sasha Kaun for open dunks to re-take the lead at the start of the second quarter. Payne tied it right up with a three-point play, then Berni Rodriguez followed suit as Unicaja went ahead again, 29-26. Ponkrashov answered for CSKA with a lane jumper and Kaun barreled in for another lead change, 29-30. Ponkrashov drove for a layup, then Eugeny Voronov scored 4 points in a row to force a Unicaja timeout at 29-36. The hosts continued to miss shots while Ponkrashov made another. Fitch finally answered for Unicaja igniting a 7-0 run he finished with a triple that closed the gap to 36-38. Teodosic put the end to Unicaja's run with a triple that Fitch matched, but with Kaun's next basket, CSKA pulled into halftime with a 41-44 lead.
Freeland's back-o-back baskets tied it quickly for Unicaja after halftime, and then Peric finished a fastbreak for a 47-45 Unicaja lead. After Teodosic shot alone to tie again, Rowland hit from long-range to keep Unicaja up. Within a couple possessions, CSKA had gone ahead 52-54 on a Krstic follow-up. Zoric free throws got Unicaja back within a point but Teodosic fed Lavrinovic for a layup plus free throw at 54-58. Zoric answered from the baseline and Peric added free throws to make it 58-59 before Teodosic made sure from the three-point arc and Ponkrashov copied him for another big CSKA lead, 59-66. Shved took his turn with a step-back triple while Unicaja settled for single free throws. By the time Ponkrashov drove for a layup, CSKA had a double-digit lead again, although Zoric made it 63-71 after three quarters on a fadeaway.
Payne's sweet pass to Zoric on the break drew Unicaja even closer to start the fourth quarter. CSKA needed an answer and got it from Krstic, seconded by Ponkrashov, on a one-handed layup. Payne’s next shot was matched quickly by Teodosic and Kurbanov stole for a layup to lift CSKA ahead by 12 points, 67-79 and force a Unicaja timeout. Peric tried to revive Unicaja with a tip-in, and when Teodosic drilled a triple for CSKA, Freeland answered him. Peric blocked a shot and raced the other way for a layup at 74-82, hinting at a comeback with 5 minutes left. Teodosic resolved that threat by feeding Krstic for a three-point play that proved enough, after Shved slammed an alley-oop pass, to send CSKA up by 75-87. With its defense doing the rest, and Teodosic smiling after finishing an alley-oop himself, CSKA closed the regular season as perfectly as it played throughout it.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011