CSKA Moscow wrapped up first place in Group E of the Top 16 and with it home-court advantage in the Quarterfinal Playoffs with an 83-79 win over a spirited Olympiacos Piraeus on Wednesday night in the Russian capital. A close game came down to free-throw shooting in the closing seconds and when Scoonie Penn missed a pair down 3 with 5.9 seconds to go, the hosts were able to celebrate their 16th straight win this season. CSKA is now 5-0 in Group E and will face the second place side from Group D in the quarters. Olympiacos dropped to 2-3 and must beat DKV Joventut at home next week to advance to the next stage. CSKA crushed Olympiacos by 21 in Greece just two weeks ago, but this game developed much differently as the visitors played tough defense that kept them alive throughout the evening. But CSKA had a red-hot shooting night from downtown, with Trajan Langdon and J.R. Holden each drilling four three-pointers as the team shot 12-for-21 (57.1%) from beyond the arc. Langdon finished with a season-high 23 to lead CSKA, while Matjaz Smodis added 20 and Holden 16. Scoonie Penn and Ioannis Bourousis posted 16 each for the visiting side, while Alex Acker had 11 and Sofoklis Schortsanitis 10 before fouling out.
CSKA won the opening tip, but that gave Olympiacos a chance to show it meant business as Bourousis blocked Smodis's first attempt. It would backfire on the visitors as Langdon wound up with the ball and drilled a three for the game's first points. Acker put the Reds on the line with a pair from the line. Olympiacos's defense continued to stifle Smodis and Acker dished to Andrija Zizic at the other end to give the visitors their first lead at 3-4. A Penn steal resulted in a Bourousis basket and at the other end, the visitors' defensive intensity remained high as Acker swatted Anton Ponkrashov's attempt. David Andersen came off the bench to hit a baseline jumper and tie it at 6-6, but Olympiacos's confidence was now high. With the defense clicking, Panagiotis Vasilopoulos and Acker made back-to-back baskets and then Bourousis stepped outside and drilled a three, putting his side up 6-13 as CSKA coach Ettore Messina took a timeout. Holden and Langdon sandwiched Bourousis's next triple with bombs of their own, but Penn burned Holden for an easy 2. After CSKA committed a 24-second violation, Schortsanitis put the Reds up 8, but he quickly fouled Holden at the other end, who made 2. Schortsanitis turned the ball over on the next play, but CSKA failed to take advantage as Thomas Van Den Spiegel blew a dunk at the buzzer to keep Olympiacos ahead 14-20 after 10 minutes.
Schortsanitis scored inside to start the second period, but Langdon answered with a three. Penn was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Theo Papaloukas, which resulted in a made free throw and then a hard basket for the super sixth man. Smodis started to heat up with a three that tied it at 23-23. A Schortsanitis spin move and an Acker basket inside helped Olympiacos hold a narrow lead, but after Smodis drew a foul and missed two free throws, Alexey Savrasenko tapped the offensive rebound to him and Smodis drained a triple to put CSKA back on top. Next time down Smodis grabbed an offensive rebound, threw down a slam and drew the foul as the hosts started to pull away. Christos Charisis penetrated, but Langdon bettered him from downtown and Van Den Spiegel atoned for his previously blown slam with a fast break dunk for a 35-30 lead. Schortsanitis muscled his way to another basket and Penn brought his team within 2, but Holden drained a triple to keep the hosts up. On the last play of the half, Sam Hoskin hit a short jumper to make it 39-37 at the break.
Smodis reached double figures with a free throw to start the second half, but Zizic quickly carried his team within 1. Charisis then gave Olympiacos the lead, but it would be brief as Smodis heated up. Putting his early struggles behind him, the forward pickedup where he left off in the second quarter with 7 straight points to put his side up 49-43. Acker and Charisis answered for the Reds to keep them in the game. Langdon was fouled shooting a triple and made three from the line to put CSKA up 54-47. Acker came right back with a triple of his own, but Papaloukas answered in form. A minute later Holden hit a jumper and after a Penn free throw, Ponkrashov fed Andersen for a dunk that put the hosts up 8. Bourousis kept the Reds in the picture with an offensive rebound and three-point play before Andersen sealed the score at 62-56 after 30 minutes.
Henry Domercant hit a three for his first points as the fourth quarter got underway, but Langdon came off a screen to drain a long jumper. Schortsanitis bumped Langdon setting a pick and was called for his fifth foul, retreating to the bench for good. Penn brought Olympiacos within 64-62 with a triple, but Savrasenko came up big on both ends to preserve the lead. Then Langdon fed Holden who drilled a three to put CSKA ahead 69-63. Domercant beat the 24-second clock with a jumper and after an Andersen turnover, Bourousis tipped one in on the offensive glass to make it 71-69. Hoskin tied the score on the next play to up the ante with 2 minutes to go. Penn matched Smodis's basket inside, Holden drilled a triple with 1:09 remaining to put the pressure on the visitors and then Papaloukas came up with a big block on Bourousis inside. Langdon looked to seal the game with triple with 31.1 seconds to go that made it 79-73, however Domercant cut the deficit in half with 22.5 seconds left. Ponkrashov gave the Reds hope when he missed both free throws and Penn carried his team within 1 from the line with 14.2 seconds to go. Langdon coolly netted a pair of free throws and Bourousis made only one for Olympiacos with 13.1 seconds remaining. The Reds got a break as Smodis also hit just one less than 3 seconds later. Penn darted downcourt and CSKA stopped him with a foul with 5.9 seconds left, but the playmaker missed both, killing his team's chances of the upset. Papaloukas put the final nail in the coffin with a free throw in the closing seconds for the final 83-79 margin.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007