The 2018 Euroleague Final Four is the beginning and end of the season for CSKA Moscow. That’s no different to normal. Even without the living ghost to haunt them, Emmet Ryan sees all the pressure being on the Red Army in Belgrade
It was happening again. CSKA hadn’t run over Olympiacos this time but they had still built up a more than defensible position. Then Vassilis Spanoulis did what he does to them. Milos Teodosic had a shot to win it, a rarity when it happens like this, but it rimmed out. Once more the dream of a title ended in at the hands of Kill Bill.
We all know the story of CSKA at Euroleague Final Fours this decade. They have made the trip 7 of 8 times, only missing out in their disastrous 2010/11 campaign. They’ve made the final exactly twice in that span, winning once. Of their 6 defeats in semis or finals, four were at the hands of Spanoulis. Another ended with a collapse that mirrored the dark days brought by Kill Bill, as Maccabi came from behind to get past them at the death in 2014.
Only the 2010 defeat to Barcelona stands out as one where CSKA didn’t CSKA. The Blaugrana just plain beat them. That’s it. Every other time, the propensity of CSKA to fall to their own fears delivered.
The victory in Berlin in 2016 was meant to change that, to end the doubts. CSKA managed to throw away a monstrous lead over Fenerbahce in the title game but finally showed the mettle required to pull it out in overtime.
Last year brought all those doubts back. Even at EuroBasket, where Russia were playing Greece, it was brought up despite Spanoulis not being there and it being actual national teams not CSKA vs Oly.
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There’s no Spanoulis in Belgrade either but the fundamental problem remains for CSKA. They can do whatever they want in the regular season, likewise the playoffs, and also across the whole VTB League campaign, but it’s all irrelevant if they don’t go 2-0 on Final Four weekend.
No accolade matters if they can’t take care of business on the only weekend that matters. There’s no big night regular season victory they get to hang their hat on, no individual award they can marvel at, or even a chance to reminisce about a wild playoff series. There is nothing that matters even for nostalgia if they don’t win the championship.
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No other club has this. Fenerbahce might be a superpower now but they only won their first title a year ago and claiming the Turkish title is still a cause for celebration. An outstanding campaign for an individual can still be marvelled at, likewise a memorable game or series from earlier in the campaign.
The same goes for Real Madrid and Zalgiris might be able to consider the LKL title a lock whenever the season starts but they’ve already got a few volumes worth of memories to look back on.
CSKA gets none of that. Even the amazing cover of Gigantes del Basket with Sergio Rodriguez on it, it’s not something they get to casually revel in. Seriously, look at this, it’s fantastic:
Esta es la nueva portada de @gigantesbasket.
-La Revolución Chachista. @SergioRodriguez desde Moscú
RT si te gusta!
Ya a la venta! pic.twitter.com/QJHlsKsqA7
— Gigantes del Basket (@GIGANTESbasket) April 29, 2018
So they go out against Real Madrid on Friday. They take the floor as the stands start to empty. It’s going to be a strange sight but as the fans from Fener and Zalgiris make their exit, they’ll be wondering if it’s going to happen again. They’re going to ask one question.
Are CSKA going to CSKA?
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