CSKA Moscow is headed back to the Final Four! The Russian champs defeated Olympiacos Piraeus 81-56 on Wednesday night in Moscow to win their best-of-three Quarterfinal Playoffs series 2-1 and secure their record sixth straight trip to the Final Four next month in Madrid. The hosts were in control throughout, building a double-digit lead midway through the second period and never letting Olympiacos get closer than 7 the rest of the way. CSKA also avenged its only home loss of the season suffered against Olympiacos in Game 1 of the series. Ramunas Siskauskas paced CSKA with 24 points on a career-high 5 three-pointers, while Matjaz Smodis scored 13 and Theo Papaloukas added 12 for the winners, who had a terrific shooting night going 13 for 22 from downtown and 14 for 15 from the line. Panagiotis Vasilopoulos netted a career-high 17 and Lynn Greer scored 11 for Olympiacos, which loses in the quarterfinals for the third year in a row.
Olympiacos won the opening tip, but it was CSKA that got on the scoreboard first through David Andersen in the paint. Georgios Printezis answered with a triple, however CSKA looked a bit more comfortable and 5 quick points from Siskauskas put the hosts in control. The Reds soon settled down and Greer tied the score first with a basket and then by assisting to Jake Tsakalidis. Andersen and Trajan Langdon scored from close range to restore the hosts' lead and despite a long Rob Blakney jumper, Olympiacos seemed to be playing catch-up. A Smodis triple made it 14-9, however a Tsakalidis basket-plus foul kept things close. The hosts stretched the lead to 8 after JR Holden and Papaloukas fired in back-to-back three-pointers. Greer made a pair of free throws to limit the damage to 22-16 after 10 minutes.
Increased defensive intensity characterized the early second period. A Viktor Khryapa three late in the shot clock gave CSKA its biggest lead yet, 27-18, however it was matched by Milos Teodosic's three-point play. Smodis and Vasilopoulos traded threes before Papaloukoas muscled his way to 2 points inside that increased the hosts’ lead to double figures. Greer came back from a short breather and promptly hit a three-pointer, but the visitors still couldn’t generate any real momentum. Papaloukas went coast to coast for a layup and on the next possession added a free throw to give CSKA a 41-29 halftime lead.
Printezis opened the scoring for Olympiacos before Langdon hit a deep three that stretched the lead briefly to 13 as Printezis came through again. This time Siskauskas hit from downtown and the swelled to 47-33. The trend continued as Greer scored 2 points and Siskauskas betted him to make it a 15-point game. However back-to-back Vasilopoulos triples quickly cut the deficit to 50-41. CSKA used a timeout to think things over after which Smodis hit from outside, however Blakney continued the Olympiacos momentum and got his team within 53-46. Siskauskas came to CSKA’s rescue with another three-pointer and after the hosts' defense forced a 24-second violation, Siskauskas’s fourth three of the game ignited the crowd. Vasilopoulos scored twice to narrow the gap to 61-50 heading into the fourth quarter.
Smodis went to work on the Reds with a basket and free throws on the first two possessions of the fourth quarter, as the game clock became another worry for Olympiacos. Andersen buried back-to-back jumpers, prompting Olympiacos head coach Panagiotis Giannakis to call timeout down 15 hoping to inspire a late comeback. But when Siskauskas fired in another three-pointer and the lead hit 18 with four minutes to go, even the most ardent Olympiacos fans stopped believing. Papaloukas stretched the lead to 20 and it continued to grow in garbage time as CSKA celebrated another trip to the Final Four.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008