CSKA got back on track in Moscow on Thursday with a crucial 96-92 Group C victory at home that was much tougher than expected against last-place Zadar, which released its top two scorers over the recent break. CSKA improves to 7-5 and will at least hold onto its share of third-place, if not take it exclusively, depending on other results. Zadar (2-0) only struggled down the stretch without Rumeal Robinson and Davor Marcelic, who left the team in the last 12 days. The game was a battle of firepower as the two offenses dictated a frenetic pace. The first two quarters saw over a dozen lead changes and numerous ties as no team seemed to grab a clear advantage. CSKA led at the half by three and the third quarter saw much of the same style of basketball. Only in the final quarter did defense take the spotlight. The Russians were able to come up with the big stops down the stretch that proved to be the difference. CSKA had almost three players scoring in the twenties, Gordan Giricek with a game-high 28, Mirsad Turkcan with 19 and Alexandre Petrenko with 18. In the final minute, Giricek stepped up with an important basket and Petrenko sealed it scoring four of his teams final six points and grabbing an enormous defensive rebound with 20 seconds to go ending Zadar's chances. Big man Ivan Grgat led Zadar with 21, while guard Marko Popovic tallied 18 in the losing effort.
The first quarter was an offensive shootout as neither of the teams decided to play too much defense but rather focus instead on their offenses. CSKA looked good in their offensive schemes, playing right through Zadar's zone, but the Yugoslavians wouldn't let them run away with it and matched them shot for shot. In the final two minutes of the quarter there were five lead changes and one tie. In the end, the home team gained the final advantage taking a one point lead into the second period at 29-28. CSKA forward Gordan Giricek led all scorers in the period with an outstanding 12 points, while for Zadar, forward Toni Ruzic led with seven.
The second period was as erratic as the first as the first as both teams continued to run on offense but could not hold onto their leads. Russian forward Zakhar Pachoutine got the period off to a great start for CSKA with a three that put them ahead by four, but Zadar countered immediately with a three of their own. At the thirteen minute mark, the visitors had tied the game at 36-36. Over the next three and a half minutes Zadar ran off a 3-11 run which put them ahead at 39-44 with four minutes left in the half, but CSKA would not go away quietly. Giricek led the Russian charge with a basket from behind the arc and Turkcan followed suit with a two-pointer that tied the game at 44-44. Zadar continued to pressure and regained their five point advantage and with 2:03 left in the half led 46-51. This time around it was Turkcan who got the Russians back in the game as they rattled off the final eight points of the quarter to go into halftime with a 54-51 lead. Giricek continued to lead all scorers picking up eight more in that period to bring his halftime total to 20.
CSKA must have realized what was at stake in this game because they came out of the locker rooms fired up and before Zadar knew what happened the home team had gone off on a 10-2 run to take a 64-53 advantage just under three minutes into the half. They were led with sharp shooting by Giric, Pachoutine and Petrenko. However, as in the first half, CSKA could not hold their lead and allowed the visitors back in the game. Zadar countered CSKA under the guidance of Grgat and Toni Dijan with a 2-10 run of their own and brought the game back to within three in the 26th minute,66-63, but they would not get any closer than that. Curtis McCants and Turkcan helped CSKA regain composure as they helped extend their lead to seven, 74-67, with just over a minute left. Zadar never said die but a last second shot by Curtis McCants gave CSKA a six point lead, 76-70 going into the final period. McCourts and Turkcan both had big periods for CSKA and after three quarters each had 15 points. Grgat continued to shine for Zadar with 19 points.
In the fourth quarter, the tempo slowed down as the two teams focused on their defense. Through the first several minutes of the period Zadar was unable to chip away at CSKA's lead as the Russians countered every attack of Zadar's with one of their own. In the 34th minute Zadar finally cut the lead down to four, 80-76, but it was only momentarily as quick field goals by Giricek, Zakhas Pachoutine, and Turkcan helped distance their team once again. As the game wound down the Yugoslavians dug deep and threw everything they had on the court. Guards Hrvoje Perencic and Marko Popovic led a late comeback which brought the deficit to within just three, 91-88, with just 1:20 to play. But the strength of the Russians was too much to overcome.
Thursday, January 31, 2002