Coming from the old school, BallinEurope loves the “live blog” format and so that’s what BiE’ll be doing for tonight’s two Euroleague Final Four games — we’ll probably be running a live chat format for Sunday’s third-place and championship matches, however. Tipoff is at 5pm CET (11am EST) for the first game, featuring tournament favorite CSKA Moscow vs. defending champs Panathinaikos.
Will the marquee names of the Red Army blind the Greens with their star quality or can that three-ring nucleus and the greatest EL tournament coach ever overcome the odds? Stay tuned to BallinEurope throughout the game and feel free to chime in with comments. See you at tipoff time…
Pre-game. The Panathinaikos fans have been warming their vocal chords for a good 45 minutes already, while the CSKA Moscow backers garbed in Kirilenko and Holden unis had been mostly congregating in the lobby area — until about three minutes ago when the first “CSKA MOSCOW!” chant went up to be met with a squall of whistles from those in green.
Meanwhile, approximately 7,000 “polis” are overseeing things; BiE wonders if they’ll be included in the attendance figures — and if they’ll need reinforcements for a Panathinaikos-Olympiacos matchup…
Both teams are now into the pregame warmup. The rousing cheers for PAO were matched only by the tremendous clash of verbal adoration and derision for the Red side.
On another subject, who knows the tiebreaking scheme for the Nike International Junior Tournament? Group A is easy to figure, with Lietuvos Rytas and Crvena Zvezda both 2-0; their meeting tomorrow will determine things. But with Team China’s stunning defeat of Mario Saric and KK Zagreb today, all four group B teams — these two plus Fenerbahce Ulker and Zalgiris Kaunas — stand at 1-1. Euroleague doesn’t even include the scenarios in the media pack … help!
In the media center, they’re showing the teams in the locker room before the game. Just what does Sarunas Jasikevicius listen to on the MP3 player…?
The pleasantries involving corporate sponsorship, charitable organizations, etc. are utterly drowned out by the upper tier packed with PAO fans. Still seven minutes before tipoff, theoretically.
Player introductions … from the CSKA 14-man roster, Anton Ponkrashov and Dmitry Sokolov aren’t suiting up; for PAO, Pat Calathes, Fotios Zoumpos and Alexandros won’t be playing.
PAO starts Diamantidis and Jasikevicius tonight — now what team anywhere in the world couldn’t compete in the playoffs with that backcourt?
Naturally, Kirilenko draws the loudest hoots from the Green backers.
First quarter. 10.00: Here we go … CSKA Moscow controls the first possession, but misses. And on the first PAO possession, Nenad Krstic fouls; can’t him him going out early.
8.43: Aleks Maric has all four points and one drawn foul; PAO up, 4-0.
8.19: Milos Teodosic notches CSKA’s first points on FTs. PAO, 4-2.
7.43: Maric again! With a slam this time … and CSKA’s had two consecutive jumpers bounce out of the rim. Ouch. Panathinaikos, 6-2, as Maric rests.
7.07: Sweet over-the-shoulder dish from Saras to Mike Batiste, who’s fouled and hits both FTs. Greens now up 8-2 — heart of a champion or early hard luck for Moscow?
6.47: Two more missed jumpers, Kirilenko’s second PF, and a Batiste and-one bucket. 11-2 now for PAO; wow, CSKA looks vulnerable.
5.37: A three-pointer, another missed Red Army opportunity and DD drives to the hole. 16-4 (!) for the Greens.
4.47: Kirilenko finally manages to get underneath and draws the foul … now if only his CSKA could land a proper offensive rebound. The timidity of CSKA settling for nervous jumpshots is the most noticeable aspect early, as is the veteran experience of PAO taking over. At the timeout, it’s a huge 19-7 advantage for Panathinaikos. Incredible.
4.35: Nice aggressive move on the baseline by Kirilenko — BiE gets the feeling CSKA’ll have to start leaning on their superstar … what else is working? (Except that he missed both FTs. Ugly.)
3.47: Already, Panathinaikos tries to slow things down …
3.08: Batiste again. The defensive mastermind got BiE’s vote for tourney MVP last year … again this year…? On CSKA’s possession, Kirilenko finally gets an offensive board, but the team manages nothing but three bricks. A score by PAO makes it a ridiculous 23-9.
1.26: And now they’re just letting Saras walk in the layup? Wow. 25-11 to PAO and the upset is in the making.
0.04: The quarter’s last basket will probably belong to Diamantidis, but Alexey Shved gets to the line for Moscow to “close” the gap to 27-15.
0.00: David Logan goes nearly coast to coast on the inbound pass for the layup. Simply put, CSKA Moscow can do nothing right and end the quarter down 29-15.
Incidentally, if you’re wondering what kinda noise the PAO fans are capable of, check out Euroleague Adventures’ video. And after that quarter, they’re just getting started.
Second quarter. 9.37: Underneath, Krstic is swarmed by four Green defenders; amazing trap defense being shown by the Greek side. PAO up, 29-17.
8.54: CSKA is playing with lots more energy, but can’t get the handle on the ball, nearly turning it over twice on their second possession of the quarter. Jamont Gordon’s FTs make it 29-19.
8.18: Shved dribbles it out of bounds. Since when did the Red Army become the Detroit Lions, circa 2009?
7.26: CSKA cannot rotate players on defense fast enough … it seems like Panathinaikos always has an open man. That and the Greeks beating them to the boards is just killing Moscow.
7.08: And again for a corner three. Nick Calathes puts it at 32-19 to PAO.
6.42: An ineffective jumper leads to defensive rebound leads to PAO break. This is getting surprisingly mundane.
6.11: And again. No really.
5.23: Kirilenko beat to the offensive board yet again … is BOB a stat? PAO up, 32-19, still.
4.53: Finally, a CSKA-looking play. The Teodosic steal to Kirilenko underneath plus the and-one. PAO, 32-22, and it doesn’t feel nearly that close.
4.09: A non-game highlight. A cute thing from the “Xtreme Squad” just launched a free T-shirt at BiE. Awesome. I rule.
3.24: Now CSKA gets some breaks. Darjus Lavrinovic with a falling jumper from about eight feet out makes it 32-24…
2.58: And the serendipitous rebound by Shved leads him to take it all the way back for a layup. Nicely done. PAO up just 32-26.
2.31: Who’s old? Saras has played all but one minute thus far.
2.02: There’s CSKA! Kirilenko grabs the offensive board, brings it out for a three and gets the foul. After going 2-of-3, the Panathinaikos lead is just three at 32-29.
1.17: And Kirilenko left open for three nails it! Tied up at 32! And the dueling fans soundtrack is at high decibel levels, indeed.
1.04: It’s a 13-0 run by CSKA…broken by Batiste. PAO, 34-32.
0.06.7: CSKA will get to set up the final play as Gordon gets the ball slapped away out of bounds on the break by the surprisingly quiet (and little seen) Steven Smith.
0.00: At half, that’s the score: 34-32. A tale of two quarters thus far … BiE’s keys to the game would include the problems CSKA is having on the offensive glass (still) while Panathinaikos is playing smart and concise team ball. The return of aggression has got to be cheering CSKA fans, but the momentum now ceases after the 13-2 closing run. Sluggishness by Moscow will be deadly in the third Q if it happens, while BiE can’t imagine Jasikevicius and Batiste should see quite so much playing time in the next half. On the other hand, Panathinaikos can’t play for tomorrow (or, literally, Sunday) against this ultimately dangerous (if haggard) CSKA side. Back in 15 minutes or so…
Third quarter. 15.00: And we’re back! PAO with the first possession. Krstic opens the scoring with a dunk on the other end, however.
8.54: On the first two possessions, Moscow shows good ball movement but turns it over. Saras with a three makes it 39-34 to PAO.
8.19: Krstic answers. 39-36.
7.45: NOW Kirilenko’s working. A block and an offensive board, plus a key pass on CSKA end. 39-38 is the PAO lead.
7.23: Belated stats from the first half: CSKA was just 6-of-17 on twos and was outrebounded 21-17. These two things should not be happening.
6.29: AK for the three gives CSKA its first lead at 41-39.
6.07: And a three by Kostas Kaimakoglou ends that. 42-41 to PAO.
5.18: A jam by AK gives the prospective season MVP 13 points for the game. CSKA back up at 43-42. Panathinaikos is having the ball control issues now, with four TOs already this period.
Random stat: PAO has yet to record a block, while CSKA has six.
Also at half, the Panathinaikos fans pelted the few Olympiacos backers here with random debris — can’t wait to see that matchup (if it happens; this one could still go either way).
3.45: Smooth pass after the missed three: Kaimakoglou to DD for three for a 47-46 PAO advantage.
3.11: CSKA’s rotating to cover the open man well now, but to no avail as Kaimakoglou hits the two and-one. 50-46 to PAO.
2.24: With Saras out, the PAO games is speeding up. But still not much happening with the TO woes…CSKA gets it back rather than a game-opening two by PAO.
2.09: Kirilenko scrambles for the ball underneath, beating DD and the just-in Romain Sato for the bucket. Misses the free throw and it’s 50-48 to PAO.
1.54: Kaimakoglou has been the spark this quarter. His two FTs give PAO another four-point lead, but Teodosic answers with a three.
0.56: Kirilenko now calling for the ball on basically every trip down the floor…
0.15: Things are getting chippy underneath; Andrey Vorontsevich taking much punishment.
0.00: Some scrambling results in no scores. After three, PAO has a 55-51 lead.
Fourth quarter. 15.00: After 30 minutes, Kirilenko leads all players in points with 15 points, rebounds with eight and blocks with three. Why isn’t it enough…?
9.17: Tsartsaris went down hard underneath and is helped to the bench. This game’s only gonna get more physical now, in desperation time…and Batiste’s two FTs in lieu of Kostas make it 57-51.
8.53: Kirilenko stays hot, puts in two more. 57-53 to PAO … and the offensive foul on Batiste sends it back to Russia.
7.55: One play after throwing it away on what would have been another AK baseline dunk, Teodosic hits for three.
7.26: Krstic getting involved again is good news for CSKA. His two gives the lead back to the ‘Army at 58-57.
6.40: NICE ball movement by PAO gives Saras the baseline jumper, but damn the Lithuanian looks winded heading back up the court again…
5.59: Batiste gets called for his fourth foul; he’ll sit.
5.40: Shortly thereafter, Saras is whistled for the third time. BiE’d hate to see PAO go down due to fouls … but with this many down the stretch, you’re lucky to have a one-point lead (59-58) in most cases…
4.20: Everyone awaits the dagger, but nothing’s coming. Repeatedly.
3.36: Shved and Maric play some vertical Twister and the call surprisingly goes to CSKA. Teodosic with the sweet opposite-hand layin that’s goaltended to give CSKA a 60-59 advantage. The tension is palpable…
3.19: And now the refs are calling everything in the paint … offensive foul on PAO.
2.50: DD works the mismatch on Krstic, but misses. AK can’t chase down the rebound and PAO answers again. 61-60 to the Greens.
2.12: There’s a/the dagger. Who left Saras open for three AGAIN? PAO up 64-60 and that felt a little final.
2.07: CSKA needs to produce here…
1.49: Shved gets the bounce. Thousands breathe a sigh of relief. 64-62, PAO.
1.26: A block by AK sends it the other way for Shved to draw the foul in transition. Shved can’t shoot both through the wall of sound, though, going 1-of-2 to reduce that lead to just one.
1.13: Killing clock, Batiste draws a foul on Vorontsevich … Kaimakoglou is bailed out of his panicky move by a Khryapa foul … PAO misses anyway.
0.38: It’s Teodosic with the 20-footer! CSKA 65, PAO 64 and whoa, have the Panthinaikos fans tightened up and quieted down suddenly.
0.38: PAO comes back from the timeout with a small lineup, giving up the rebound. And sure enough, CSKA does after the miss from Kaimakoglou.
0.21: And Siskauskas hits 1 of 2 FTs. CSKA 66, Panathinaikos 64 — the Red Army fans are feelinig it. For some reason, the Olympiacos fans react. PAO’s backers are numbed…
0.21: The reason? Taunting.
0.09: A no-call on an intentional foul by Calathes give CSKA a few more seconds to kill — and later two FTs by Teodosic, who misses both! Timeout, naturally. Who’s tenser, the PAO fans or those of CSKA? Maybe Olympiacos’ actually: They got somber real quick as the schadenfreude was toned down by the fact of one more PAO possession to tied it. 66-64 to CSKA right now.
0.00: O man, o man, o man. Saras inbounds to DD, who plays with the ball despite a semi-open look at the three. (“What are you doing?” screams Nick of Euroleague Adventures.) The CSKA D clamps down and that’s all she wrote. CSKA Moscow plays for the title in two days, winners by a 66-64 score.