A comeback that won't be forgotten soon by those who witnessed it saw CSKA Moscow end Maccabi's undefeated season with a stunning 84-87 Group B win in Tel Aviv on Thursday. It was only stunning because CSKA had trailed by 19 points midway through the third quarter. CSKA's reaction at that moment, a 1-15 run, ended with both teams tied 5-1 at the top of Group B and 10,000 Maccabi fans in shock. Marcus Brown led the CSKA takeover and finished with 24 points. J.R. Holden followed him with 17 and Teodoros Papaloukas added an important 15 off the bench. Maccabi, which had coasted the first 25 minutes, got 10-for-10 two-point shooting and 24 points from Anthony Parker. Nikola Vujcic added 17 points, Tal Burstein 13, Maceo Baston 11 and Deon Thomas 10.
Maccabi came out playing aggressive defense, but soon paid the price, picking up 4 fouls in the first 3 minutes, 30 seconds. Point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius suffered most, getting called for 2 early fouls, and throwing up an airball on the other end. Parker was active quickly on offense, throwing down a pair of dunks to put Maccabi ahead, but CSKA's pressure forced turnovers and the visitors close. A Vujcic jumper gave Maccabi a 15-10 lead midway through the period, but soon Brown drove through the Maccabi defense and Holden sank a three-pointer to tie 15-15. Jasikevicius answered with his own triple, his first points of the night, and then Parker flew downcourt to convert a three-point play on the fast break. CSKA took a timeout, but it seemed not to effect Maccabi's momentum. Deon Thomas, in for Maceo Baston, battled for two baskets in the paint following a Vujcic triple to complete a 13-0 run to a 28-15 Maccabi advantage. Mirsad Turkcan stopped CSKA's slide with a jump shot, and Theodoros Papaloukas sealed the quarter with a free throw to make it 28-18. Vujcic was up to 10 points by then for Maccabi.
Victor Alexander scored in the paint to start the second period, but the CSKA guards couldn't match his accuracy. They missed from outside and lost the ball to Maccabi's guards, who sent Vujcic and Baston on fastbreaks to reestablish a 13-point lead, 35-22. CSKA used a pair of jumpers from reserve center Alexander Bashminov to cut the lead to single digits, 26-35, but Maccabi remained red-hot on its attack, especially Parker, who added three more dunks and a pull-up jumper to make it 49-33. Maccabi's defense fed off the energy, holding CSKA to one field goal in the final 5 minutes before halftime, when the scoreboard read 49-34. Parker had 17 points by then.
CSKA certainly seemed to be falling apart at the start of the third quarter. Turkcan committed a hard foul on Parker, inciting the Nokia Arena fans. Holden, who only moments earlier nailed a three to make it 41-55, was whistled for an offensive foul and a technical, his fourth. After the free throws, Maccabi went up 60-41. But, when Pini Gershon gave Vujcic and Parker a breather, Maccabi went on a three-and-a-half-minute scoring drought which CSKA used to get back in the game. Brown scored 8 points himself in a 1-15 run that came as a bucket of cold water over the euphoria in the arena the previous 25 minutes. The Russians ended the third quarter trailing by only 5 points, 63-68. It was a brand new ballgame, essentially.
CSKA coach Dusan Ivkovic continued to let his hot reserves run in the fourth, leaving Holden, Turkcan and Alexander on the bench in favor of Papaloukas, Savrasenko, and Sergei Panov. Brown put fear into the hosts with a three to start the quarter, cutting the lead to just two, 66-68. Panov and Papaloukas added baskets as CSKA remained just one step behind Maccabi. But jumpers by Baston and Tal Burstein allowed Maccabi to pull away a bit to 77-70, thanks to 4 missed free throws by Savrasenko. Ivkovic brought Holden in for Anton Yudin and went with a three-guard lineup, which didn't stop CSKA from dominating the offensive glass, though the visitors did have trouble converting its open shots. But with Jasikevicius on the bench, the Maccabi attack stalled as well, and when Panov awoke from his slumber with a three and Brown added a running jumper, CSKA was again within two, 79-81, with just 2:20 to play. Maccabi went to Vujcic, who scored on a jump hook, but Brown was fouled taking a three on the other end by Parker. Brown made all 3 free throws to cut the difference to 82-83. Baston got a lucky roll on the first of 2 free throws, but missed the second. Maccabi continued to foil Moscow's shot attempts, but the ball remained with the visitors after every rebound, until Holden finally ended a 60-second attack with a three that gave CSKA its first lead since the opening minutes, 85-84. After a timeout, Burstein missed in the lane, Turkcan hauled in the rebound and sent Brown for a fast break dunk with 3.8 seconds left. Maccabi got Parker an open look from three at the buzzer, his shot went wide and CSKA escaped with a narrow 87-84 win.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Eran Sela, Tel Aviv