CSKA dumped Zalgiris 84-71
CSKA Moscow finished the Top 16 in style by downing Zalgiris 84-71 in Group G in the Russian capital on Wednesday. CSKA has clinched first place before the game and finished Group G with a 5-1 record. Zalgiris finished Group G with a 2-4 and will be third if Asseco Prokom Gdynia beats Unicaja tomorrow. Pops Mensah-Bonsu paced the winners with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Trajan Langdon added 17 while Zoran Planinic had 12 for CSKA. Mantas Kalnietis led Zalgiris with 22 points. Dainius Salenga added 13 while Arturas Milaknis had 12 for the guests, that led 18-22 early in the second quarter. A 9-0 run that J.R. Holden capped with a triple put CSKA ahead for good, 27-22. Mensah-Bonsu shined in the third quarter with 12 points, including three outstanding dunks, and got some help from Langdon and Planinic to make CSKA to boost its margin to 67-51 after 30 minutes. Zalgiris did not rally in the fourth quarter, allowing CSKA to seal the outcome long before the final buzzer. In a brief ceremony right before the start of the fourth quarter, CSKA vice president Yuri Yurkov and team captain Matjaz Smodis gave uniforms and basketball shoes to the Russian national team that will represent the country at the European Special Olympic games in Warsaw, Poland, next September.
Kalnietis got Zalgiris going with a driving layup, as the guests placed Tadas Klimavicius in their starting lineup to get intensity at both ends. Viktor Khryapa took him one-on-one and sank a baseline jumper, as CSKA quickly adjusted its man-to-man defense. Free throws by Sasha Kaun gave the hosts their first lead, 4-2. Salenga quickly answered from downtown but Ramunas Siskauskas fed Planinic for an easy layup and Kaun added a left-handed jump hook for a 8-5 score. Zalgiris struggled to get Marcus Brown involved but managed to find other options in offense. Milaknis stepped up with a triple and Klimavicius sank free throws to tie it at 10-10. Planinic banked in a turnaround jumper that Mirza Begic matched with a jump hook. CSKA could not find its scoring rhythm and did not improve with Langdon back on the floor. Khryapa had a huge block on Milaknis, as the game turned into a physical battle. Travis Watson scored in the paint but Andrey Vorontsevich improved it with a layup-plus-foul to put CSKA back ahead, 15-14, after 10 minutes.
CSKA struggled to score early in the second quarter while a free throw by Klimavicius and a corner triple by Milaknis gave Zalgiris at 15-18. Langdon got the crowd involved with a layup-plus-foul but he didn't find much help around. Mario Delas shined with a put-back layup and Watson dunked it to make CSKA call timeout at 18-22. Anton Ponkrashov rescued the hosts with a floating layup, as CSKA tried to power the boards with Mensah-Bonsu and Kaun together on court. Langdon took over with a driving basket and a fast break dunk by Kaun forced Zalgiris to stop the game at 24-22. A three-pointer by Holden capped a 9-0 CSKA run and even when Brown scored in transition, Mensah-Bonsu set the crowd on fire with an alleyoop dunk. Salenga struck from downtown but a backdoor layup by Langdon gave CSKA a 31-27 edge. Watson scored in the paint but Holden answered with a mid-range jumper and a red hot Langdon nailed a triple to boost their team's lead to 36-29. A driving basket by Salenga and free throws by Mensah-Bonsu fixed the halftime score at 38-31.
Planinic collected a steal and fed Mensah-Bonsu for a tomahawk dunk but Kalnietis answered with corner triple for a 40-34 Zalgiris deficit. Salenga hit free throws but Langdon scored over Adas Juskevicius and Mensah-Bonsu added a put-back layup for a 44-36 CSKA lead. Zalgiris tried to feed Begic and Klimavicius down low but Salenga took over with a running triple. CSKA struggled to find Langdon due to Juskevicius' physical defense but Siskauskas stepped up with a second-chance basket. Mensah-Bonsu dunked it again and a fast break layup by Planinic gave CSKA its first double-digit lead, 50-39. Langdon made the most out of a defensive mismatch with an open triple and then matched Marty Pocius' free throws with a stop-and-pop jumper. Aleksandar Capin downed a long jumper but Planinic kept CSKA way ahead, 57-44. Mensah-Bonsu provided a highlight with a windmill dunk and a layup by Planinic broke the game open, 61-44. Mensah-Bonsu folowed a three-point play with a layup but Kalnietis singlehandedly kept Zalgiris within 67-51 after 30 minutes.
Begic tried to ignite the guests' comeback with a layup-plus-foul early in the fourth quarter. Kalnietis ran the length of the court to get another three-point play to give Zalgiris some hope at 67-57. Planinic sank a jumper but a red hot Kalnietis answered from downtown for a 69-60 score. Vorontsevich joined the three-point shootout and soon added free throws to keep CSKA out of trouble, 74-60, with 7 minutes left. Mensah-Bonsu kept pacing CSKA with a layup-plus-foul that Pocius erased with a triple. CSKA improved its defense with Vorontsevich and Dmitriy Sokolov back on the floor and opted to use long possessions to run the game clock down. CSKA stayed focused in defense and a six-meter jumper by Ponkrashov sealed the outcome, 79-63, with over 3 minutes left. Everything was said and done already, as CSKA showed it is ready to face bigger challenges in the upcoming playoffs. Meanwhile, Zalgiris had a bitter end to a good Euroleague season, making sure it uses the experience to get even better in the upcoming future.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010