Undefeated Group F leader CSKA became the first team to make it to the quarterfinal playoffs when it beat visiting Lietuvos Rytas 79-69 in Moscow on Wednesday. CSKA improved to 4-0 in the Group D standings and holds three-victory advantage over L.Rytas, now third at 1-3, with just two games to go. Matjaz Smodis led the winners with 16 points, Trajan Langdon added 14, David Vanterpool had 12, 9 rebounds and 4 steals while Aleksey Savrasenko and J.R. Holden each scored 11 points for CSKA. Simas Jasaitis led L.Rytas with 17 points, Roberts Stelmahers added 13, Tomas Delininkaitis 11 and Mindaugas Lukauskis 10. Robertas Javtokas collected 15 rebounds for the guests. Vanterpool and Langdon led CSKA to a 41-30 halftime lead, but Jasaitis and Lukauskis fueled a 1-14 run that brought L.Rytas back into the game. A mid-range jumper by Tomas Delininkaitis brought the guests as close as 71-69 with under 2 minutes to go, but Langdon and Smodis hit consecutive three-point shots to seal a victory worth a trip to the next round!
L. Rytas coach Neven Spahija surprised everyone by placing center Povilas Cukinas in the starting lineup. Smodis got CSKA going with a second-chance layup while Vanterpool fed Holden for a corner three-pointer that gave the hosts a 5-0 lead. Stelmahers answered from downtown but Vanterpool erased that with 3 free throws to keep CSKA ahead, 8-3. After an L. Rytas timeout, Langdon hit a running jumper and Smodis capped with a 7-0 run which a jump hook that made it 12-3. Javtokas replied with a layup and House scored in penetration but L.Rytas only managed to exchange baskets now. Simas Jasaitis stepped up with a nice six-meter jumper that Stelmahers followed with a three-point play to bring L.Rytas within 18-12. CSKA switched to a zone defense that Andrius Slezas beat with a layup and when House beat the shot clock with an acrobatic layup, it was a two-point game, 18-16. Theo Papaloukas came to the rescue with a driving basket but Jasaitis bettered him with a three.pointer before free throws by Tomas Van den Spiegel and Sergei Panov for CSKA fixed the score at 22-20 after 10 minutes.
Langdon kept CSKA ahead with a corner three-pointer early in the second quarter, as the game turned into a physical battle. L.Rytas struggled against CSKA's zone defense, not scoring any baskets in the first 3 minutes of this period. Meanwhile, Alexey Savrasenko scored off a two-on-two situation with Vanterpool, making the guests call timeout at 27-21. Smodis added a jump hook to the lead but Jasaitis erased it with an alley-oop layup. Javtokas provided a highlight with a huge block on Smodis but once again Vanterpool found Savrasenko to keep CSKA up 31-23. Langdon's tough jumper another by Papaloukas suddenly made it a 12-point game, 35-23, before Langdon capped CSKA's 15-3 run with free throws. Mindaugas Lukauskis rescued L. Rytas with a floating layup which Jasaitis followed with reverse before Lukauskas returned to with a basket-plus-free throw to finish the half with a 41-30 scoreboard.
Lukauskis kept pacing L.Rytas after halftime with a fastbreak layup off a midcourt steal. House followed with a huge fallaway jumper that brought the guests within 41-34. L.Rytas tried a four-guard lineup now with Jasaitis at power forward, but Holden stepped up with a long jumper and Smodis scored in the low post to keep CSKA ahead, 46-35. Stelmahers came to the rescue for the visitors with a three-pointer that Tomas Delininkaitis followed with free throws to make it 46-40. Javtokas scored inside and Jasaitis added a driving layup to bring the guests even closer, 47-44. CSKA called timeout, but after it Lukauskis buried a big three-pointer to tie it up 47-47. The guests now dominated the game with their 2-1-2 zone defense as Delininkaitis capped a mamooth 1-14 run with a runaway layup that supplied the guests with their first lead of the game, 47-49. Papaloukas followed a free throw with a triple but Jasaitis matched him from the arc. Vanterpool hit a short jumper and then Savrasenko beat the buzzer with a five-meter shot to keep CSKA in charge, 55-54, after 30 minutes.
Both teams went scoreless for almost 2 minutes of the final quarter until Jasaitis buried his third three-pointer, good for a 55-57 L.Rytas edge. Holden answered with a six-meter jumper and Savrasenko added a short hook, igniting a 6-0 CSKA run that Vanterpool capped with a basket in penetration to give the hosts a 61-57 lead with under 7 minutes remaining. Delininkaitis beat the shot clock with the corner three-pointer, and after Vanterpool hit free throws, Cukinas scored inside to bring L.Rytas within 63-62. Langdon stepped up with a long two-pointer from the left corner and then fed Panov for a fast break layup for a 67-62 CSKA lead. Delininkaitis and Smodis exchanged free throws while Stelmahers hit from downtown to keep L.Rytas in the game, 69-67. Smodis made 2 more from the foul line, as Javtokas and Cukinas fouled out for the guests. Delininkaitis stepped up with a mid-range jumper but Langdon beat the guests' zone defense with a three for a 74-69 CSKA lead with 1:40 to go. Another corner three by Smodis already in the final minute allowed CSKA fans to celebrate a return to the quarterfinal playoffs!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006