Another Group B war that reached into overtime saw CSKA narrowly avoid an upset attempt on its home floor in Moscow by outlasting Unicaja 91-84 on Wednesday. CSKA's great escape allowed it to retain at least a share of first place, at 7-2. Unicaja fell to 2-7. The visitors had entered the final 30 seconds of regulation time ahead 75-78, but an offensive rebound by Mirsad Turkcan led to Sergei Monya's game-tying three-pointer from the corner with 14.1 seconds left. In overtime, Marcus Brown and Dragan Tarlac led the hosts to victory. Brown led CSKA with 17 points, while J.R. Holden had 15 and Tarlac added 13 for the winners. Louis Bullock, who missed an attempt to win the game on the buzzer in regulation time, paced Unicaja with 23 points. Carlos Cabezas added 21, Chuck Kornegay 11 and Larry Lewis 10 for the guests.
Victor Alexander looked motivated against the team he started the season with as he followed a mid-range jumper with a three-pointer from the top of the key to give CSKA a 5-0 lead. Duelling inside, Alexander scored 11 first-quarter points, but his counterpart on Unicaja, Chuck Kornegay, responded with 5 early on and finished the quarter with 9 himself. CSKA took an 11-5 lead after Brown fed Monya for a two-handed dunk, but the Unicaja defense clamped down and held the hosts scoreless for almost 3 minutes. After an acrobatic layup by Kornegay and a three-pointer by Cabezas, Unicaja pulled within a point, 11-10. CSKA soon woke up and finished the quarter ahead 19-14 after a layup by Alexander, while Unicaja's long-distance shooters struggled, finishing the first quarter just 1 of 9 from three-point range.
CSKA went on a 12-3 partial once its second unit, Turkcan, Anton Yudin and Dragan Tarlac, stepped on court, while Holden picked up the scoring with Alexander on the bench. A pair of foul shots by Holden and a three-pointer by Yudin extended CSKA's lead to 31-19. Bullock finally drilled a triple for his first points, while Cabezas followed with a jumper in the paint, bringing the guests within 7, at 31-24. Unicaja changed to a 2-3 zone defense, which resulted in a 6-13 run, but was not enough to even the score. Bullock and Cabezas each nailed three-pointers, before Theodoros Papaloukas knocked down 2 free throws, extending CSKA's lead to 39-32 at halftime.
The pace of the game picked up dramatically in the second half, as a three-point play by Tarlac was answered with a six-meter jumper by Larry Lewis on the other end. Cabezas stepped up for Unicaja, scoring 5 consecutive points to cut CSKA's lead to 47-43. But Kornegay, who was Unicaja's main offensive force in the paint, picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter. Despite losing Kornegay, the guests hung in the game behind back-to-back triples from Bullock, who cut CSKA's lead to 54-51 after 27 minutes. The guests even managed to make it a two-point game, 57-55, after a put-back dunk by Lewis. But Holden scored 5 points in the final minutes to give the hosts a safe seven-point lead, 62-55, going into the fourth quarter.
While Unicaja failed to make a field goal in the opening 3 minutes of the fourth quarter, CSKA extended its lead to double digits, 67-56, on baskets by Brown and Panov. Unicaja recovered thanks to Berni Rodriguez, who drilled 2 three-pointers in a row to make it 67-62. Then 4 points by Cabezas and a three-pointer by German Gabriel powered a 2-9 run capped with a long two-pointer by Bullock, which made the score 72-71 with less than 3 minutes to go. CSKA was in disarray offensively, while Bullock was unstoppable in the other end. He made a jumper which tied the game at 75-75 then drilled a three-pointer with 30.6 seconds to go to give the guests a 75-78 lead. Brown missed a three in the corner but Turkcan recovered the rebound and Monya drilled a game-tying three from the corner with 14.1 seconds left. Bullock got a clear look at the basket on Unicaja's last possession but he missed an open three-point attempt and the game went into overtime.
Unicaja failed to score early in the extra time, while Brown scored consecutive baskets to put CSKA up 82-78. Unicaja did not give up, as Cabezas found Lewis for an easy basket while Bullock drilled a free throw to make it a one-point game at 82-81. Turkcan stepped up with another key offensive rebound and easy layup, but Bullock then fed Lewis for an uncontested dunk. Holden stepped up with a three-meter jumper which pushed CSKA's lead to 86-83. Unicaja went scoreless for two consecutive possessions, while a free throw by Tarlac and a two-handed slam off a midcourt steal by Brown sealed a hard-fought win for the hosts.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004