With its own hopes in the Group E race very much in play, Winterthur FC Barcelona did what no other team could this season when it defeated CSKA 68-79 in Moscow on Wednesday thanks to great zone defense and exceptional foul shooting. Barcelona lifted its Group E record to 2-2 and will share second place with the winner between Scavolini and Real Madrid on Thursday. CSKA not only saw its history-making 17-game Euroleague and 43-game overall winning streaks ended, but also missed its first chance to qualify for the playoff quarterfinals as its record fell to 3-1. The result was all the more surprising because CSKA started the game strong as ever, with a 9-0 run that it pushed to 19-7 later in the first quarter. After that, however, Barca took and maintained control the rest of the way behind a zone that consistently frustrated CSKA, a 33-40 rebounding edge and 21-for-25 free throw shooting. Dejan Bodiroga came off the bench to lead the winners with 18 points. Juan Carlos Navarro added 15 and Gregor Fucka 11 that included a key put-back near the end. Vlado Ilievski and Andrija Zizic scored 10 apiece for the winners. Only Marcus Brown with 16 points and J.R. Holden with 12, all but 4 of those in the first quarter, scored in double digits for CSKA.
Barcelona was cold right away as Navarro missed a three-pointer right after the tipoff. It was a sign of things to come. CSKA went on a 9-0 run led by J.R. Holden, who knocked down a long two-pointer and the game's first triple on consecutive possessions against Barcelona's man-to-man defense. Barcelona finally scored on Navarro's coast-to-coast drive almost 4 minutes into the action, after which Barcelona tested CSKA with its first a zone defense. CSKA managed to stay in front, however, even after Navarro hit a three-point shot to cut the difference to 11-7. Holden capped a 5-0 run with a layup off a give-and-go with Andersen to post a 19-7 lead. Barcelona hung tough as the quarter finished, however, as a post move by Zizic trimmed the deficit back to single digits at 23-14, which is how the first quarter ended.
Barcelona came out like gangbusters in the second quarter behind the stellar play of Ilievski, who hit a three-pointer and running one-hander to cut the CSKA lead to 25-19. CSKA could not crack the visitors' zone defense, and when Bodiroga knocked down 2 free throws in the 15th minute, the difference was all the way down to 27-25. Barcelona would finally take its first lead of the game at 30-31 on a basket by Devin Davis. Despite its cold shooting, CSKA didn't let the visitors extend their lead, and a tough turnaround in the lane by Papaloukas with just under 1:30 to play in the half tied up the score at 35-35. Navarro drained a long two-pointer with just over a minute to play that gave the lead back to Barcelona, and with both defenses challenging opposing shooters, neither team could score again. With Bodiroga calming his team on offense and its tenacious zone holding steady on defense, Barcelona took a 35-37 lead in to halftime.
The visitors continued to play strong zone defense, but CSKA managed to retake the lead after halftime, 41-40, on back-to-back three-pointers by Antonio Granger and Holden. But it was downhill from there for CSKA, as Barcelona went on a 1-10 run in which Navarro nailed another triple and Bodiroga a pair of his patented fallaway jumpers, the last putting the visitors up 51-42 in the 26th minute. CSKA managed to keep the visitors from extending their lead for a few minutes behind free throws from Brown and Andersen, but when Zizic scored down low, Barcelona's lead climbed into double digits, 48-59, with 1:27 to play in the third quarter. Not only were the visitors forcing misses their zone, but Barcelona rebounded better than CSKA throughout the game to prevent second shots for the hosts. Zizic finished the third quarter with a pair of free throws to give Barcelona its biggest lead yet, 48-61 after 30 minutes.
Knowing its win streak and passage to the next round were on the line, CSKA came out aggressive in the fourth quarter, with Sergei Monya as the spark in an 8-2 opening run. Monya slammed home an offensive rebound, hit 1 of 2 free throws, drilled a three-pointer from the left corner and passed to Brown for a breakaway layup as CSKA cut the difference to 56-63 with 6:52 to play, forcing Barcelona to take a timeout. Theodoros Papaloukas brought the Moscow crowd to its feet a minute later, saving a ball headed out of bounds with a one-handed pass to Murrsepp under the basked for a layup that made it 58-63. Navarro finally broke a drought for the visitors with a running one-hander in the lane with just under 5 minutes remaining. After an exchange of free throws, Bodiroga found his range against CSKA's smothering man-to-man defense, draining a long two-pointer over Monya to give the visitors a 69-63 lead with 2:21 to play. Brown struck right back with a basket-plus-free throw for CSKA, dropping the margin to 66-69 and seeming to promise a close finish. But Barca was not about to cave in, not even after a free throw each by Navarro and Bodiroga was matched by a Papaloukas layup that made it 69-71 with 1:38 remaining. Ilievski reappeared then with an uncontested layup of his own, then after a CSKA miss, Fucka put back an offensive rebound that was the key basket, leaving the visitors up 75-68 with 1:03 to play. After Brown missed a three-pointer, CSKA was forced to foul, and Fucka's 2 free throws were enough to make sure of Barcelona's big upset and the end of CSKA's historical streak.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Carl Schreck, Moscow