Not content with already reaching the Top 16, CSKA downed visiting Panathinaikos 75-68 in Moscow on Wednesday to continue its battle for first place in Group B. Panathinaikos led after 30 minutes, but a 14-3 run to start the last quarter, sparked by veteran captain Sergei Panov, settled it for CSKA. Marcus Brown scored 21 points, J.R. Holden 16 and Mirsad Turkcan doubled up with 13 points and 11 rebounds for the winners. CSKA (9-2) will at least continue sharing first place in Group B with Maccabi, who plays Thursday in Tel Aviv. Panathinaikos, meanwhile, fell to 5-6 and will likely have to fight until the final regular season game to make it to the Top 16. The Greens were led by Dimitri Papanikolaou with 13 pointsand Mike Batiste with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, however the two of them managed just 5 points together after halftime. Arriel McDonald added 10 points for Panathinaikos, which was outrebounded 40-30 by the Russian champs.
CSKA started the game at full speed, powered to a 9-2 opening run by its backcourt duo of Brown, who scored 4 points, and Holden, who added a three-pointer. The Greens fired back soon after that with a 1-6 run surge in which Darryl Middleton scored 2 mid-range jumpers, enough to bring the guests within 11-10 after a basket by Dimitrios Papanikolaou. The hosts held a slim lead at 15-10 due to a couple of free throws by Brown and a dunk by Viktor Khryapa and both teams started to exchange baskets soon after that. Mirsad Turkcan sank 4 free throws in the final 2 minutes, but Mike Batiste and Arriel McDonald made a jumper apiece to help Panathinaikos tie it all up, 21-21, after 10 minutes.
The guests dominated the game early in the second quarter, as a three-pointer by Papanikolaou, a three-point play by McDonald, and 4 points by Batiste were enough to give the Greens a 23-29 lead. Batiste in particular posed problems for CSKA as he seemed able to score from anywhere. But the hosts struck back with a 7-0 run, in which Brown excelled with 5 points and made the basket to tie 32-32. A back and forth battle had started, but Panathinaikos missed 4 shooters, two each by Haris Mujezinovic and Papanikolaou, giving Holden an opening to score a three-pointer and a layup to regain the lead, 39-38, for CSKA. Even when Papanikolaou and Mujezinovic corrected themselves with 3 good free throws that put Panathinaikos back ahead, 39-41, CSKA called on Turkcan, whose rebounding led a late-quarter surge. His efforts were capped with a half-ending dunk by Sergei Monya, by which time the hosts were back in charge, 43-41.
The third quarter was similar to the second, with neither team ready to give the other too much distance. As time was getting shorter, both teams started to get nervous and payed more attention to defense. Scoring was very sparse, with only 6 points for each team through the 25th minute for a 49-47 scoreboard after Kostas Tsartsaris rifled in a jump shot for Panathianikos. The Greens then took the opportunity to screw down their defense even more, and over the final 5 minutes of the quarter, CSKA was to get ony 2 more points. An ex-CSKA player, Nikos Hatzivrettas, tied the game at 49-49 and then center Haris Mujezinovic put the visitors in front with a three-pointer. But CSKA did not fold on defense, either, and Turkcan continued his job under the baskets, reaching double-digit rebounds with 1 minute left in the quarter. CSKA scored only two points in the last five minutes of the third quarter. In the end, the Panathinaikos run was a solid 2-7, but less damaging that it might have been to CSKA, who trailed by only 51-54 on its own floor after 30 minutes.
After the Panathinaikos lead hit a high of 51-56 on two free throws by Jaka Lakovic, the CSKA captain, Panov, was able to fire up his teammates in the beginning of the last period. The veteran forward made a three-point shot and then stole a ball away from Lakovic, a message that was quickly understood by his teammates. Now, it was CSKA getting the random baskets, including 2 each by Brown and Holden, while its defense put a five-minute hold on the Greens. With 4 minutes to go, the CSKA lead was 65-57. Tsartsaris finally broke through for a basket, but CSKA kept the visitors from getting too close. Even when McDonald put in a triple to make it 66-63, Holden immediately answered with one of his own. The decision was wrapped up by Theodoros Papaloukas with 30 seconds to go, as he saved the ball after Batiste missed a three-pointer and then was fouled and scored both free throws to put the score at 73-68, out of reach for the Greens on this night in Moscow.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004