CSKA Moscow booked their place into Sunday’s Euroleague final after a thrilling 66-64 win over Panathinaikos in Istanbul.
Sarunas Jasikevicius drained a wide open triple to give Panathinaikos a 64-60 lead but it turned out to be their last basket. A baseline jumper from Milos Teodosic gave CSKA a 65-64 lead with 38.1 seconds remaining and Alexey Shved, who scored 15 points overall split his free throws to make it 66-64. Jasikevicius, who led Panathinaikos with 19 points in vain had eight ticks to salvage something, but over-dribbled the ball and ran into a sea of red as time expired.
Despite the failed play, Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic wasn’t fussed about the plan for who took the last shot: “Last shot doesn’t matter, to be honest. We had 39 minutes and 52 seconds before that.”
There was a cause for concern tough for Jonas Kazlauskas’ men though, as Andrei Kirilenko committed two fouls in the early part of the first as Panathinaikos targeted on him and Nenad Krstic early.
Kirilenko, who finished with 17 points, didn’t commit a single foul afterwards.
“To start, Andrei was a little nervous, but I had a chat with him and he played great, like I wanted him to,” Kazlauskas said.
“It was an extremely tough game, both mentally and physically with a lot of emotions. If it did not end like this, I would probably be crying on my way to the locker room,” said Teodosic, who ended with 12 points.
The game plan was obvious from the start as Panathinaikos’ big men targeted Krstic and Kirilenko early, Aleks Maric was aggressive inside, hitting the first six points for the Greens as CSKA couldn’t buy a bucket in the opening exchanges. Panathinaikos led 11-2 with three minutes of the opening quarter played highlighted by a Mike Baptiste three-point play.
CSKA were winning the battle of the rebounds, especially on the offensive stat, but the final product was lacking – five minutes in – and both Krstic and Kirilenko were on two fouls and the latter was held scoreless in the first ten minutes as Panathinaikos enjoyed a 29-15 lead thanks to a David Logan buzzer beating drive and lay-up.
True to their style though, CSKA came back, limiting Panathinaikos and speeding the game up. A Nick Calathes three gave the Athens team a 32-19 lead, but from then were on the wrong end of a 13-0 run as Kirilenko tied the game at 32 with a wide-open three as the momentum seemed to change to Russians, but Baptiste connected with a fade away to bring the first half to a close. .
A Kirilenko triple gave CSKA the lead at 41-39 which was answered right back at the other end by Kostas Kaimakoglu. It was a game of wits, all of a sudden. A two-hand slam from Kirilenko was matched by Kaimakoglu as his foul shots tied it up against at 44.
It was Kaimakoglu was the difference in the third, his hustle and aggressiveness on both ends of the floor was the reasoning behind a 55-51 Greens advantage heading into the fourth.
The final ten minutes didn’t start off well for the Athens side, as Kostas Tsartsaris was carried off and CSKA responded by posting a 7-0 run highlighted by a triple from Teodosic.
The ending wasn’t pretty or free-flowing, but CSKA held out for the win.