CSKA held off Unicaja 70-76
CSKA Moscow became the Top 16 Group G champion by downing Unicaja 70-76 in Malaga, Spain on Wednesday night. CSKA improved to 4-1 in Group G and clinched first place due to its tie-break advantage against Asseco Prokom Gdynia, second at 3-2, and will have the home court advantage in the upcoming Quarterfinal Playoffs. Prokom also clinch a playoff spot with this win, as it has a two-game advantage against Unicaja, fourth at 1-4, and the tie-break advantage against Zalgiris, second at 2-3. Ramunas Siskauskas led the winners with 16 points. Sasha Kaun added 14, Andrei Vorontsevich had 13, Viktor Khryapa got 11 while Zoran Planinic contributed 10 for CSKA. Omar Cook led Unicaja with 17 points. Georgios Printezis added 15 while Zab Dowdell had 14 for the hosts. Siskauskas struck three times from downtown in a 0-15 run that allowed CSKA to get a 10-24 lead after 10 minutes. A three-pointer by J.R. Holden soon gave the guests their biggest lead, 10-29. CSKA kept excelling in defense and kept a 18-33 margin at halftime. Cook sank consecutive triples in a 0-11 run that gave Unicaja some hope, 33-40, midway through the third quarter, and managed to bring Unicaja within 52-56 with 6 minutes left. Khryapa and Vorontsevich stepped up in crunch time to lead CSKA to a key road win.
Unicaja coach Aito Garcia Reneses surprised everyone by placing Saul Blanco in its starting lineup to guard Trajan Langdon. Both teams struggled to score in the opening 2 minutes until Printezis stepped up with a layup. Planinic sank a mid-range jumper and Khryapa fed Kaun for a dunk that gave CSKA its first lead, 2-4. Printezis kept pacing Unicaja with a bomb from downtown but Khryapa fed Kaun for an easy basket. CSKA kept running the pick-and-roll with Kaun and he delivered with a second-chance basket. Siskauskas soon struck from downtown for a 5-11 CSKA lead. Unicaja lacked ball circulation and Khryapa had managed to stop Printezis, leaving the hosts without its main scoring option. Siskauskas sank free throws and soon buried back-to-back three-pointers to make it a double-digit game, 5-19, after a 0-15 run. Carlos Jimenez answered from downtown but Kaun dunked it again for a 8-21 CSKA margin. Robert Archibald stepped up with a put-back layup but a big triple by Khryapa fixed the score at 10-24 after 10 minutes.
Siskauskas fed Holden for a corner three-pointer early in the second quarter and soon added a baseline jumper to make it a 19-point game, 10-29. Nedzad Sinanovic stepped up with a second-chance layup that Vorontsevich erased with free throws, as CSKA kept dominating the game with outstanding defense. Unicaja tried a 2-3 zone defense with Sinanovic intimidating in the middle. CSKA started to miss open shots, while free throws by Blanco and an easy basket by Sinanovic got Unicaja within 16-31. CSKA opted to slow down the game tempo with twin point guards - Planinic and Holden - together on court. The guests had been scoreless for more than 4 minutes already but Unicaja lost the chance to trim its deficit. Dowdell collected a midcourt steal and raced downcourt for a layup that made CSKA call timeout at 18-31. CSKA kept following its game plan, using a patient offense to run the game clock down. Kaun scored down low to restore a 15-point CSKA lead, 18-33, at halftime.
Dowdell split foul shots immediately after the break and soon added a layup to give Unicaja some hope at 21-33. Kaun stayed on fire with another big basket in the low post and Planinic sank an open three-pointer to keep CSKA out of trouble at 21-38. CSKA stayed focused at both ends and tried to improve its offense by taking Planinic in the low post. Kaun provided a highlight with a dunk but Jiri Welsch and Cook answered from downtown for a 28-40 Unicaja deficit. Unicaja tried to play more aggressive once CSKA entered the foul bonus. Welsch hit free throws and Cook nailed another three-pointer to make CSKA call a much-needed timeout at 33-40, after an 11-0 run. Planinic, on court with 4 fouls, rescued CSKA with a corner triple but Jimenez got the crowd involved with a put-back dunk. Khryapa and Dowdell traded baskets but a tip-in by Vorontsevich restored a double-digit CSKA lead at 37-47. Siskauskas dunked it coming off the baseline but an acrobatic buzzer-beating jumper by Dowdell got Unicaja within 40-49 after 30 minutes.
Khryapa scored around the basket early in the fourth quarter, as CSKA improved its defense right when it mattered. Planinic soon added a driving layup to make it a 13-point game, 40-53. Zowdell nailed his trademark stop-and-pop jumper and Printezis added a jump hook to get Unicaja within single digits, 44-53. Vorontsevich sank a long jumper but a technical foul on Anton Ponkrashov helped Cook to singlehandedly bring Unicaja back to life, 52-56, with over 6 minutes left. Langdon silenced the crowd with a bomb from downtown but Archibald fed Welsch for a backdoor layup. Vorontsevich shined with a three-pointer to make Unicaja call timeout at 54-62. Archibald split free throws and Dowdell nailed a triple to keep Unicaja alive, 58-64. Ponkrashov sank free throws but Printezis copied him in the other end and added a jump hook to get the hosts even closer, 62-66. Siskauskas made 1-of-2 foul shots and Khryapa dunked it for a 62-69 CSKA lead with 2 minutes to go. Printezis scored again and Cook added a driving layup got Unicaja within 66-69 with 1:15 remaining. Vorontsevich downed a triple and free throws by Khryapa sealed the outcome, 68-74, allowing CSKA to celebrate first place in Group G.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010