In the kind of road game that separates real contenders from the pack, CSKA Moscow proved why it can considered a favorite by defeating Panathinaikos 73-85 in Group C on Wednesday despite the presence of 8,000 fans at Olympic Indoor Hall in Athens. With the victory, CSKA goes to the top of Group C at 2-0, sharing first place only with Tau Ceramica, while Panathinaikos falls to 1-1. Only a few of those fans in Athens came to see the two Greek players on CSKA, Theodoros Papaloukas and Dimos Dikoudis, but they both made strong contributions to the victory by the visitors, putting in 13 points each. CSKA was led in scoring by Antonio Granger, who hit 3 three-pointers among his 18 points. J.R. Holden nailed 12 more points for the winners, while David Andersen led a 39-25 CSKA advantage on the boards with 9 rebounds. For Panathinaikos, Mike Batiste led the way with 16 points, while Vlado Scepanovic added 13 and Jaka Lakovic hit 12.
CSKA started with its usual fast rhythm and found good scoring options right away in Dikoudis and Granger to build early margins of 3-8 and then 6-11. By that time, CSKA already downed 3 three-point shots in as many attempts, but the Panathinaikos defense soon put the brakes on that. Nikos Hatzivrettas and Batiste made some great shots under pressure to cut the difference. Hatzivrettas, a former CSKA player, defended well against Marcus Brown, and his basket followed by a triple from Batiste forged a 13-13 tie after 6 minutes. Batiste soon gave Panahinaikos its first lead, 17-15, just before CSKA changed to a zone defense and shut down the Greens the rest of the quarter. Holden made an outstanding play down the stretch to send the guests ahead 17-19 after 10 minutes.
Both coaches substituted to start the second quarter, and Panathinaikos reserve Kostas Tsartsaris hit a three-pointer to draw the Greens within 20-21. Both teams were playing with three perimeter players and one big guy, Patrick Femerling for Panathinaikos and Aleksey Savrasenko for CSKA. Zakhar Pashutin and Brown bagged 8 consecutive points and CSKA's zone defense blanked Panathinaikos as the guests soared ahead 23-31 after 16 minutes. With Tsartsaris and Martin Mursepp having committed three personal fouls each, both coaches lost power forwards to the bench, at which point Panathinaikos regained its momentum. Lakovic hit consecutive three-pointer to spark a 10-1 run over 2 minutes that gave the Greens back a lead at 33-32. CSKA reacted, but only enough to grab a one-point edge, 35-36, at the break.
Vlado Scepanovic put the host ahead 37-36 to start the second half, but then the Greek duo of CSKA hurt the hosts. Dikoudis supplied his energy and Papaloukas his great court vision to score 5 straight points in a 0-9 run that included a basket by Andersen that put CSKA back in charge, 37-45. The visitors played with outstanding intensity to execute a trapping zone on defense while keeping a clear mind on offense. Papaloukas was unstoppable either in set plays or on the fastbreak in boosting the lead to 43-55 after 27 minutes. Panathinaikos failed to react, handcuffed by CSKA's defense into making several turnovers. Granger then added 6 consecutive points for high margin of 43-61 that gave CSKA all the safety it needed. A 6-0 Panathinaikos run with Batiste's dunk at the buzzer could only cut the deficit to 12 points, 51-63, after 30 minutes.
With CSKA keeping a double-digit lead, nothing was supposed to be different in the fourth quarter. Panathinaikos already missed Tsartsaris, who had fouled out, while CSKA continued its superb zone defense, dominated under the boards and controlled the tempo. Holden, Brown and Papaloukas took care of the the ball and the game turned into a monologue belonging to CSKA, whose lead rose again to 16 points, 58-74. Panathinaikos cut it again to 66-77, but in the end, the visitors registered an easy and deserved 12-point win, their second straight in Group C.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Vassilis Skountis, Athens