The Moscow powerhouse closes out Nizhny Novgorod to win its fourth title in five years

CSKA Moscow defeated Nizhny Novgorod 82-66 to sweep the VTB United League finals series Friday and claim its third title in a row.

The visitors, looking to grab a lifeline after two losses on their home court, led by as many as five points after Pavel Korobkov sank a pair of free throws to make it 23-28 in the 12th minute, but CSKA then shifted gears and used a 11-2 run late in the second quarter to create a seven-point lead at halftime, 44-37.

After the interval CSKA continued to build the lead and stretched it to a game-high 24 points on Vitaly Fridzon’s three-point basket, 82-58, with 1:53 left to play. By then Ettore Messina had pulled four starters off the court and Nizhny used the remainder to trim the lead to 16, scoring the final eight points of the game.

CSKA center Alexander Kaun was the top scorer with 20 points as teammate Viktor Khryapa led rebounders with 10 boards. The Russian giants’ point guard Milos Teodosic, who averaged 15.7 points and 6.7 assists per game in the finals, was voted the playoffs MVP.

Friday’s victory capped CSKA’s impeccable 9-0 run in the playoffs as it came back from two games down against Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in the quarters and then successively swept UNICS Kazan and the tournament’s biggest sensation, Nizhny Novgorod, in the best-of-five series. En route to its first appearance in the finals Zoran Lukic’s squad served a major surprise when it eliminated regular season champs Khimki (18-0) in the quarterfinals, winning that series in three.

As widely anticipated, the final game of the series also marked the last appearance of four-time Euroleague winner Messina on CSKA’s bench.

“We have just warmly parted with him in the locker room, he’s leaving his post. We will announce the name of the new head coach later, I can’t talk about that right now,” head of CSKA’s board and VTB League President Sergei Ivanov told R-Sport news agency after the game.

Messina guided CSKA to two Euroleague titles in 2006 and 2008, but failed to win again after returning to the club two years ago and leading his squad to consecutive Final Four appearances in 2013 and 2014.