Tau Ceramica provided one of the biggest surprises ever in the Euroleague Final Four by beating mighty CSKA 78-85 in the second semifinal of the Final Four in the Olympiysky Arena, Moscow on Friday. CSKA had entered the game with a record-breaking 21-1 record, but shot just as poorly as Tau did well whenever it seemed necessary. With the score tied 62-62 and less than 8 minutes remaining, Tau soared on a 2-11 run featuring three-pointers by Pablo Prigioni, Jose Manuel Calderon and Arvydas Macijauskas to take full control. Tau will now face defending champs Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague Final on Sunday at 16:40 CET. Macijauskas led the winners with 23 points. Calderon added 13 and Kornel David posted a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, 6 of them in the final period. Luis Scola had 10 points despite playing less than 21 minutes due to foul trouble. J.R. Holden led CSKA with 20 points. Demos Dikoudis added 13 points, Marcus Brown 12 and David Andersen 10. CSKA's dream of winning its first title since 1971 at home suffered from 10-for-28 foul shooting and 8-for-29 three-point shooting. Tau Ceramica, though a newcomer to the Final Four, reaches its second Euroleague final, after having finished runner-up to Kinder Bologna in a best-of-five playoffs series in 2001. Tau head coach Dusko Ivanovic now has the chance to win the Euroleague both as a player and a coach. CSKA became the first team to lose three consecutive Final Four semifinals since Aris did it from 1988 to 1990.
Andersen opened the game with a turnaround jumper in the paint, as Tau struggled to score for a minute until Macijauskas turned a driving layup into a three-point play for a 2-3 Tau edge. He slashed again for a power layup, but Holden immediately answered from downtown to tie the game, 5-5. Both teams started with man-to-man defense, with Dikoudis being very physical against Scola. Even with that, Calderon fired in a three-pointer to put Tau back in charge, 5-8. CSKA was having trouble at both ends. Meanwhile, Macijauskas took over with an off-balance turnaround jumper, while Hansen capped a 0-8 Tau run with a three-pointer off the dribble which gave Tau a 5-13 margin. Dikoudis scored in the paint for CSKA, but Tau was now on fire. Scola scored in the paint against Andersen and Kornel David fired in his trademark five-meter jumper to keep his team going. When Scola grabbed an offensive rebound for a put-back basket, CSKA was down 10-19 and forced to call timeout. Sergei Monya stepped on court to slow Macijauskas, while Brown carried on struggling against Hansen's outstanding defense. Tau boosted its margin into double digits once David made free throws for a 10-21 lead after 7 minutes. Brown drove for his first basket, while Hansen had to go to the bench with 2 fouls. Andersen woke CSKA up with a dunk, while Theodoros Papaloukas added a driving layup to bring their team within 16-23. Tiago Splitter came off the bench after a Tau timeout and immediately had a big block on Andersen which Calderon turned into a fastbreak layup. A technical foul of Ivanovic allowed CSKA to cut its deficit to 17-25 after 10 minutes.
Calderon opened fire in the second quarter with free throws, but CSKA was a different team now and got back into the game in less than 3 minutes. Holden became his team's go-to guy with back-to-back bombs from downtown, while Andersen scored in the paint to make it a two-point game, 25-27. Tau struggled to score for 3 long minutes, while Monya capped a 11-0 with a corner three which put CSKA back in charge, 28-27. Sergi Vidal found a open four-meter jumper to give Tau some fresh air, while Scola stepped up with a second-chance basket which gave his team a 30-31 edge. Tau got some help off the bench from Roberto Gabini, who took over with a left-handed layup off a steal, and Andrew Betts, who scored in the paint to give Tau a 31-35 lead. That didn't slow CSKA, as Monya made another corner three-pointer while Papaloukas dunked it to give the hosts a lead again, 36-35. A red hot Gabini became the unexpected factor for Tau off the bench, as he nailed a catch-and-shoot triple to put his team back in charge, 36-38. Tau stayed in the game due to its bench depth, as hardly any starters were in the game. Gabini now buried a six-meter jumper while Prigioni added a fastbreak layup to keep Tau ahead, 37-42. Betts turned a jump hook into a three-point play that capped a 0-7 run and gave Tau a 37-45 edge. Brown tried to change things for CSKA with a tough jumper but Vidal delivered a fast break layup for a 40-47 Tau margin at halftime.
Tau started the third quarter at full speed, as Scola fired in a mid-range jumper that Prigioni followed with a drivijng basket to boost their lead to 40-51. CSKA went scoreless for more than 3 minutes, as Tau's defense was more aggressive with most of its starters - all but Calderon - back on court. CSKA tried to solve its offensive problems with a timeout, but Tau continued powering the offensive boards and playing strong defense. Even with that, Tau faced severe foul trouble once Scola returned to the bench due to a blocking foul, his fourth. Andersen made a short jumper and Holden added free throws to pull CSKA within 44-51. David came to the rescue for Tau with a four-meter jumper, but Holden beat the shot clock with a three-pointer to bring CSKA even closer, 47-52, midway through the third. The foul situation got worse for Tau once Splitter committed his fourth, while David already had three. Despite a Tau timeout, CSKA kept rolling, forcing a 24-second violation on Tau while Brown capped a 6-0 run with an uncontested three that made it, 51-53. Calderon answered with a driving layup while Macijauskas came off a screen to nail a catch-and-shoot three which gave Tau some fresh air at 51-58. Andersen followed Brown's driving basket with a layup and Holden canned a five-meter jumper that got CSKA within 57-58. Macijauskas took over with a fallaway jumper, but Holden answered with another long jumper for a 59-60 Tau lead after 30 minutes.
Brown managed to put CSKA back in charge, 61-60, with a floating layup early in the fourth quarter. Scola immediately came off the bench and scored in the paint to keep his team alive, as the game turned intense. Prigioni beat the shot clock with a critical three-pointer, but Scola was fouled out right after that. CSKA struggled to score now, but Tau failed to break the game, as Macijauskas and Calderon missed consecutive threes. The game turned into a real thriller once a short jumper by Macijauskas went in and out while Betts had a huge block on Holden in the other end. Coach Dusan Ivkovic asked for a timeout with 5:36 to go, but both teams carried on struggling to score for more than 2 minutes. Betts conquered a key offensive rebound which allowed Calderon to fire in a big three-pointer and give Tau a six-point lead, 62-68. David had already started to seal the defensive boards for Tau. Meanwhile, Macijauskas capped a 0-8 run which a driving layup which gave his team a 52-60 margin with under 4 minutes to go. Papaloukas slashed for a layup, but Macijauskas provided the play of the day. Tau inbounded the ball with a single second on the shot clock, but enough for him to nail an incredible three from the opposite corner to make it a nine-point game, 64-73, already in the final 3 minutes. Dikoudis revived CSKA with a close basket, but the hosts carried on struggling from the free throw line. Meanwhile, a second-chance by David sealed the outcome, 66-75, with under 2 minutes to go. Around 1,000 Tau fans had started to celebrate, especially once Brown missed 2 free throws and David delivered a huge dunk which sent Tau to its first Euroleague title game.
Friday, May 6, 2005