CSKA Moscow has returned to the Euroleague Final Four for a fourth consecutive season, a record since the format came to European basketball in 1988! CSKA become the first team to seal its ticket to Prague by beating Efes Pilsen 71-75 on the road in Istanbul on Thursday in in Game 2 of their best-of-three Quarterfinal Playoffs series. Added to its 66-57 home victory in Game 1, CSKA swept the series 2-0. On Thursday, Trajan Langdon led the winners with 24 points on 5 of 7 three-pointers against his former team, Efes. Sergei Panov added 14 points off the bench while Matjaz Smodis had 13 for CSKA. Niksa Prkacin led Efes Pilsen with 15 points while Marko Popovic had 13 for the hosts, who stayed in the game for 32 minutes before Langdon and Smodis fueled a 0-10 run which put CSKA fully in charge, 58-68. Efes never gave up and managed to cut the difference to 71-73 with 4 seconds to go, but Langdon sealed his outstanding game with series-ending free throws, good for CSKA's ticket to Prague!
Kuqo got Efes going with a jump hook, while Langdon's jumper started up CSKA. Some man-to-man defensive assignments had changed from Game 1, with Domercant now guarding Vanterpool while Arslan was on Holden. Vanterpool grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Alexei Savrasenko for a layup but Domercant answered from downtown for a 5-4 Efes edge. CSKA tried to look for Smodis in the high post, but he missed 3 three-point attempts in as many minutes. Vanterpool kept pacing CSKA with a layup-plus-free throw. Peker and Savrasenko exchanged layups while Langdon tied the score, 9-9, with a driving basket. Efes now struggled while trying one-on-one solutions to CSKA's intense defense. The visitors used twin playmakers, Vanterpool and Theodoros Papaloukas, which paid off as Sergei Panov buried a triple. Papaloukas added a fastbreak layup for a 9-14 CSKA lead. Domercant rescued Efes with free throws and a long jumper, then Granger capped the 7-1 run with a three-pointer that put Efes ahead again, 16-15. However, Panov and Langdon responded with back-to-back triple and Papaloukas added a put-back layup for a 16-23 CSKA lead after 10 minutes.
Efes got moving right away in the second quarter as Niksa Prkacin slashed for a three-point play. CSKA immediately called timeout to find answers on offense and came back with a different attitude. Smodis stepped up with a second-chance layup that Peker got back with an added free throw for Efes. Their back-and-forth continued even as CSKA switched to zone defense, as Smodis canned another jumper and Peker exploded a two-handed dunk on a nice feed by Marko Popovic. Smodis won this battle, however, as he drew an unsportsman foul on Peker and hit free throws that Tomas Van den Spiegel followed with a short hook, good for a 24-32 CSKA lead. Efes needed a timeout and came back stronger on defense, while Kuqo and Arslan brought the hosts within 27-31. Langdon hit free throws and Papaloukas dunked off a midcourt steal for CSKA, but Arslan and Granger fired in a triple apiece from downtown to keep Efes within 33-37. Arslan brought Efes even closer with a layup and then answered Langdon's second triple with a driving basket, but CSKA still led 37-40 at halftime.
CSKA kept looking for Smodis right after the break and he delivered with a layup that Prkacin answered with free throws and improved upon with an inside basket to make it a one-point game, 41-42. CSKA struggled to score now while Kerem Gonlum ran the break to put Efes ahead 43-42. CSKA coach Ettore Messina called timout, but after it, Domercant capped a 8-0 Efes run with a six-meter jumper. Now, however, Papaloukas fed Langdon for a game-tying triple at 45-45. Panov stepped up with a driving layup while a red-hot Langdon shot CSKA ahead 45-50 with another shot from downtown. Following a timeout, Popovic rescued Efes with free throws and a triple from the top for a new tie, 50-50. Gonlum added jump hook to take back the lead while Granger managed to slow Langdon. Holden and Smodis returned to the floor while Panov made 3 of 4 foul shots to put CSKA up again, 52-53. Prkacin followed a free throw with a tip-in while Smodis's jump hook fixed the score at 55-55 after 30 minutes.
Holden opened the final period with a fall-away jumper, his first points in the game. Popovic replied with a floating layup, but Holden hit free throws for a 57-58 CSKA edge. Peker copied him at the other foul line, Smodis answered with a big three to keep the guests ahead, 58-61. The game turned into a defensive battle, with tough shot selection in both ends. Langdon managed to cool down the sellout crowd with a corner three-pointer that forced Efes to ask for timeout at 58-64 with 7 minutes to go. Panov then fed Van den Spiegel for a layup and then hit a jump hook that capped a game-breaking 0-10 run. Efes called another timeout at 58-68 and Popovic tried to change things with a long jumper while Prkacin stepped up with a basket-plus-free throw that gave Efes some hope at 63-69. CSKA was already playing with long possessions, while Papaloukas grabbed an offensive rebound which allowed the ever-present Langdon to seal the win with a high-flying triple. Efes never gave up, as an outstanding Popovic and a put-back layup by Gonlum brought the hosts as close as 71-73 with 4 seconds to go, but Langdon sealed the win with free throws.
Thursday, April 6, 2006