Road to the Playoffs: CSKA Moscow

Apr 13, 2018 by Print

CSKA Moscow entered this campaign having made very few roster changes to the team that reached the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four last season and won the 2016 EuroLeague title. However, one big difference for head coach Dimitris Itoudis's team was at the point guard position, where former MVP Sergio Rodriguez came aboard alongside Nando De Colo.

It did not take long for CSKA to start clicking. After an opening round home win against AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan and a road loss at Real Madrid, CSKA went on its first winning streak of the season. A five-game run started with an 18-point win over Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens and included a 94-91 win over Zalgiris Kaunas before CSKA beat Valencia Basket at home and Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade on the road by 27 and 26 points, respectively.

With a 6-1 record and in first place, CSKA lost at home in an overtime thriller against Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul, but bounced back with another winning streak, this time of four wins – each by 9 points or more – which improved the team's record to 10-2.

CSKA held a league-best 12-3 mark at the halfway point of the regular season before suffering a 13-point road loss against FC Barcelona Lassa in Round 16. But that was a rare low in a season full of highs. CSKA went on to win 11 of its next 12 games. First was a five-game run that included a 110-79 win over Anadolu Efes Istanbul, which set a season-high scoring mark, a 70-75 road win over Panathinaikos and a 93-87 home win over Madrid.

After a road-loss at Valencia, CSKA clinched a playoff berth with 93-86 win over Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz in Round 23, which sparked another six-game winning streak. A 20-point road win in Tel Aviv and a 25-point home drubbing of Unicaja Malaga saw CSKA secure home-court advantage for the playoffs with five games to go.

The highlight of it all came in Round 26 when De Colo hit a buzzer-beating jumper to sink Fenerbahce 79-81. The following round CSKA defeated Olympiacos Piraeus 89-81 and clinched first place in the standings. It wrapped up the regular season with a comfortable win over Crvena Zvezda, bringing its tally wins by double-digit margins this season to 14.

After posting the best record in the league, 24-6, and reaching the playoffs for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons, the seven-time EuroLeague champions prepare to take on Khimki Moscow Region with the goal of making a seventh consecutive trip to the Final Four.