The triumphant return of leading MVP candidate Mirsad Turkcan has CSKA Moscow holding its own in the Group C race following a difficult 88-83 home win on Thursday against last-place Buducnost of Yugoslavia. Coming off the bench five minutes into the game, Turkcan registered a rare double-double-double of 27 points and 23 rebounds to assure that CSKA (6-4) maintains its strong options of entering enter the Top 16 no matter what happens in the rest of the group. Thursday's victory arrived after a lot of work and a little bit of luck at the end. Buducnost (2-8) resisted until the last minute, when a three-pointer plus free throw by Vladimir Kuzmanovic jolted his team back in the game at 85-83. On the next offensive play, the youngster Blagota Sekulic, whose six straight points had saved Buducnost minutes earlier, now failed a shot. A Zakhar Pashutin free throw made it 86-83, then Sekulic missed a three-pointer trying to force overtime. CSKA played without leading scorer Gordan Giricek and Dimitri Domani got injured in the third quarter, but the Russian team had enough with Turkcan back in town. Aleksandre Petrenko was close behind with his own double-double, 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Pashutin added 10 points. As for Buducnost, the best scorer was Igor Rakocevic with 23 points. Aleksandr Okunskyy scored 11 and Dragan Vukcevic 10.
At the very last moment, CSKA head coach Valery Tikhonenko decided not to play Giricek, the Euroleague's second leading scorer (22.8 ppg), because the player had the flu. Neither was big man Nikita Morgunov availalable, but his absence was balanced by that of Nikola Jestratjevic in Buducnost's frontcourt. The visitors nonetheless started strong with a 3-9 run. CSKA didn't seem ready to defend well, as in the first quarter, Buducnost posted near-perfect field goal percentages: 10 of 11 shots overall went through, including 8 of 8 two-pointers. Rakocevic, who didn't show his best form the first time these teams met, finished those first 10 minutes Thursday with 10 points. But things were not too bad for the home team, either. In the fifth minute, Tikhonenko let Turkcan enter his first Euroleague game in almost a month out due to injury. Turkan missed his first two foul shots, but then helped his team with 5 points in a row to get within 28-32 at the end of the quarter.
In the second period, "Turkcan Time" started in earnest. In those 10 minutes, the power forward produced what many players would take for a whole game, 13 points and 9 rebounds. The quarter included a 10-3 run that gave CSKA its first lead, 42-41, after 16 minutes. Buducnost seemed to be a bit tired and this helped CSKA to finish the quarter ahead 57-52.
For all the high scoring of the first half, the defensive clamps came out for both teams in the third quarter. CSKA ended with the best of that specialty, too, winning the quarter 16-12 to stretch its lead to 73-64. Still, the last quarter was thrilling. Buducnost got some fresh power from Sekulic, whose 7 points in a row helped the guests make an 11-5 run in first 7 minutes of the period. But then came Turkcan, again. He scored two free throws and made a three-pointer to set out what seemed to be a comfortable lead for CSKA, 85-79. That set the stage for Kuzmanovic's four-point play and the possibility of overtime, which CSKA was fortunate to avoid.
Thursday, January 10, 2002