Expectations have always been high for CSKA Moscow, and the reigning EuroLeague champion kept the bar set mighty high after returning the entire core of its championship-winning squad and adding even more depth over the summer.
CSKA opened its title defense in style, crushing Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul on the road 84-109, and setting a club record for points scored in the process. A six-game winning streak to open the season included wins against four playoff teams – Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Olympiacos Piraeus and Real Madrid – and left CSKA as the sole unbeaten team in the competition before a Round 7 road loss to Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul.
Losing reigning MVP Nando De Colo to injury for seven games did not stop the champs from getting back to winning and breaking records. A 112-86 win over Baskonia in Round 9 upped the CSKA scoring record for the second time in less than six weeks, before the team overcame an 18-point deficit in a 76-80 road win at Maccabi to improve to 12-1.
The rare three-game losing skid that ensued included a 79-95 overtime defeat to Fenerbahce – CSKA’s only home loss of the season – followed by road defeats in Belgrade and Madrid. During Milos Teodosic’s four-game absence, CSKA lost sole possession of first place in the standings for the first time in Round 19 after a road loss at Zalgiris Kaunas and dropped to second place after 77-71 defeat at Fenerbahce in Round 21.
However, the team was quick to bounce back and was the first to clinch its playoff ticket with five games remaining and soon clinched second place in the regular season standings.
CSKA was its usual dominant self at home, where it compiled a 14-1 record, which helped it secure home-court advantage for the 12th time in as many Euroleague playoff appearances.
With the road to the Final Four going through Moscow once again, and having in mind that the club has never lost a EuroLeague playoff series, the defending champion appears confident it can reach the Final Four for the sixth consecutive season.