With another command performance, CSKA won the battle for exclusive possession of first place in Group C when it ran past Tau Ceramica to an 88-83 home win on Thursday in Moscow. CSKA is now 3-0 and Tau 2-1 in the standings. Tau led for much of the first three quarters, but when CSKA turned it around, that was the end of it. An inspired Theodoros Papaloukas and his countryman, Dimos Dikoudis, sparked the comeback, but Marcus Brown ended up leading the winners with 23 points. Dikoudis added 19 points and team-high 7 rebounds, while Papaloukas had 14 points off the bench. Tau, which used only eight players, got a big double-double of 22 points and 13 rebounds from Luis Scola. Arvydas Macijauskas led the visitors in scoring with 26 points, while Robert Conley added 11 and Sergi Vidal 10.
Tau took the CSKA crowd out of the game early, jumping out to a 0-7 lead on a basket by Scola, a three-point play by Calderon and a driving layup by Macijauskas. CSKA could not find its offensive rhythm and was cold shooting early, but finally got on the board with a layup by Brown. A dunk by Kornel David put Tau up 6-11, and after an exchange of baskets, the visitors were still in charge at 9-15 with 5 minutes gone. After a timeout, CSKA came out in a zone and was promptly burned by a Macijauskas three-pointer from the left corner. The visitors gave CSKA no second opportunities, snatching rebound after rebound on the defensive end. Scola got an offensive board from a missed free throw by Andrew Betts, however, and put it back in for an 11-19 Tau lead. CSKA cut the difference to 16-21, but Macijauskas hit back with another triple in transition from the right wing to push the Tau lead back up. Betts was a defensive force in the paint for Tau after replacing David, who picked up his third foul after only 6 minutes. Brown kept getting to the basket for CSKA, however, and Martin Muursepp's layin at the buzzer off a feed from J.R. Holden cut the Tau lead to 24-27 after 10 minutes.
CSKA came out more energetic in the second quarter, with Holden drilling back-to-back three-pointers to seize a 31-27 lead for the home team in a matter of 90 seconds. But Tau stayed tough, unfazed by the CSKA zone that was so effective the previous week against Panathinaikos in Greece. Scola sank 1 of 2 free throws with just under 5 minutes to play in the half to put Tau on top 33-37, and Sergi Vidal knocked down a three-pointer from the right wing a minute later to give the guests a 33-40 advantage, after which Tau coach Dusko Ivanovic took his first timeout of the evening. Newcomer Robert Conley entered, drew a foul on Sergei Panov, hit the shot in the lane and converted the free throw to give Tau an eight-point lead, 37-45 with 2:15 remaining. CSKA made a late run as a putback by Alexei Savrasenko made it 41-45, but Scola hit a fastbreak layup with 49 seconds remaining and drew another foul. Though he missed the ensuing free throw, Panov also missed a layup as time ran out and Tau took a 41-47 lead to the locker room.
CSKA clamped down on defense coming out of the break, which allowed a three-pointer by Brown in minute 24 to pull the hosts within a single point, 48-49. Tau stayed ahead still, however, as Savrasenko missed an easy fastbreak that could have tied the score at 54-54. Tau capitalized on an ensuing fastbreak by Macijauskas for a 52-56 lead, but CSKA was not about to give in. Dimous Dikoudis put back and offensive rebound and Theodoros Papaloukas added a layup with 50 seconds remaining in the quarter to again cut the Tau lead to a point, 61-62. Macijauskas again saved the lead, drilling a three-pointer from the left corner with 29 seconds to go. Dusan Ivkovic called timeout to set up CSKA's reaction, and success came in the form of a three-pointer by Muuressep from the top. Tau subsequently turned the ball over, giving CSKA one more opprotunity with 4 seconds left. Papaloukas cashed in by driving through the lane to throw down a two-handed dunk in traffic as CSKA seized the lead, 66-65, as the third quarter ended.
CSKA came out in a zone to start the fourth quarter, smothering Scola inside, and finally began to find its offensive rhythm. Muuressepp fed Antonio Granger under the basket, Dikoudis drove and dunked off an inbounds play, while Papaloukas hit a foul shot and a layup to give CSKA its biggest lead of the game, 73-67, before Tau called a timeout with just under 7 minutes remaining. CSKA used two point guards now, Holden and Papaloukas, as Tau continued its cold shooting. With 5 minutes remaining, CSKA led 75-69 and Tau still could not find an answer to the CSKA zone. Muursepp drilled a three-pointer from the right corner as CSKA built its lead to 78-69, then Papaloukas connected from long range with just under 4 minutes remaining for CSKA's first double-digit lead, 81-70. Macijauskas reappeared four 4 free throws to get Tau closer, at 81-74, with 2 minutes left. Tau couldn’t capitalize on a CSKA turnover then, however, so Brown took the rebound, drove the length of the floor and drew a foul. Brown made the first free throw, and as the second bounced around the rim, Scola accidentally touched it, prompting the officials to award 2 points to CSKA for an 84-74 lead. Only 1:46 remained, but not even when Macijauskas hit a triple and Scola added a jumper with 17 seconds left, making it 86-80, could Tau threaten again. Dikoudis and Brown were good at the foul line and it took a late three-pointer by Jose Manuel Calderon to make the final score look closer, but by then CSKA was alone as Group C leader.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004