Sunday, May 03, 2009

'09 Euroleague Final: Panathinaikos 73, CSKA Moscow 71

The end result might indicate a competitive, tight game throughout but Panathinaikos (PAO) had the game well in hand before shutting down offensively midway in the 3rd. PAO was cruising with a 20+ point lead thanks to an outside shooting clinic in the 2nd quarter. But their offense abruptly collapsed, and got stuck on 56 pts. for 8 mins in the 2nd half.

CSKA held their opponent scoreless the last six minutes of the 3rd, and forced a flurry of turnovers in the last half of the 3rd. Also, got back into the game in the 4th by finally getting Ramunas Siskauskas involved offensively, and some timely offensive boards. But Siskauskas could not convert his final look from 3pt. land as time ran out.

The 3pt. line was a major factor on both ends for Panathinaikos' victory. PAO finished 13/27 from 3pt. land, and must have hit seven or eight in the 2nd quarter. The 3-headed point-guard monster of Saras Jasikevicius, Dimis Diamantidis, & V. Spanoulis combined for 8/13 3pt. shooting.

PAO's solid defensive effort should not get buried by their hot outside shooting display. The normally sharpshooting CSKA only shot 5/16 from 3pt., and Vik Khryapa's 3pt. make late in the game was the only clean look in the half-court. Pana did a great job contesting shots all day, especially frustrating Langdon. CSKA could never really get its offense going for most of the game until it was basically too late. Siskauskas really did not get going until late in the 2nd half. And most of Siskauskas' points were incredibly tough shots with guys in his face.

Can't really fault CSKA's defensive approach. They made a concerted effort to shut off the paint from the deadly pick/roll trio of Jasikevicius, Spanoulis, & Diamantidis, and they did an admirable job, especially denying Spanoulis deep penetration, his forte.

But they found out you can't shut down everything that a team as talented as PAO has to offer. And CSKA was dealt a major blow in the 2nd quarter when PAO tore the game open with a 3pt. barrage.

The CSKA's bigs were in very good position all game walling off the painted area on the endless ball screens of PAO's double-high post offense. Did not allow much easy access into the paint by any of the PAO perimeter players, especially Spanoulis' punishing drives. Also, did a nice job corraling the young beast, Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic manhandled Olympiacos bigs in the semis, but CSKA guarded his post-ups well & forced him into 6 TOs. Coach Messina sporadically mixed in some zone as well.

PF Antonis Fotsis did exactly what he was suppose to do--he spread the floor at the 4 spot. Fotsis sometimes has a tendency to disappear when needed, but he came up big on Sunday with 13 pts on 3/6 3pts. & 8 rebs.

One of Fotsis' big shots came when CSKA had cut the game to 56-50 early in the 4th:
    PAO made a slight variation (not sure if it was planned or not) by running the Diamantidis P/R a little higher which gave him more speed to get deeper into the lane. CSKA got sucked in (Khyrapa a little too far), which opened up a great look for Fotsis on the left wing to drill a big 3pt. to extend to a 9-point lead in the midst of a furious CSKA comeback. Fotsis' shot stopped a 17-0 CSKA run that started at the 6:00 mark of the 3rd. Pana had not scored in 8 mins. since Fotsis hit another 3pt. off of Diamantidis P/R action to take a 56-33 lead.
Saras did another masterful job running the high P/R when he had the chance. Wasn't quite as deadly running it with Batiste like in the Semis, but still made a few sweet feeds to Batiste or setting up 3pt. looks. PAO players consistently made the extra pass to open up some of the 3pt. looks--Diamantidis set up a big Spanoulis 3pt. with an extra pass.

After having a very ragged game vs. Olympiacos, Diamantidis came out strong off the bench and was aggessive on the offensive end--scoring 8 of his 10 pts in the 2nd quarter, including a big 3pt. on a quick pull-up off high ball screen.

Spanoulis' couldn't get to the rim, so he decided to do some damage with his outside shot (not really a strength). Spanoulis was 3/5 from deep including a shot-clock beating 3pt in the 1st half, and then a monster one-dribble pull-up 3pt. to give PAO a 68-60 lead with 3:00 remaining.

Former Bucknell Bison JR Holden was the one steady influence for CSKA offensively in the 1st half. Caused problems with his quickness in iso situations and side P/Rs resulting in 14 points & 4 assts, and a handful of drawn fouls.

The one thing that worked consistently all game for CSKA was drawing fouls. Holden & Langdon drew fouls thru-out; Trajan was closely guarded, bumped, & grasped wherever he went. They went to the foul line twice as much as PAO, but only shot (20/30) from the line after shooting around 75% from the year. Siskauskas missed 3, not to mention Khyrapa missed 2 late.

Vik Khyrapa had another sound all-around game with 9 pts, 7 rebs (5 off), 2 stls and versatile defense. But sadly might be remembered more for clanking two free throws in the last minute. [M. Haubs note: Vik also had a technical in the first half (worth 2 FTs in Euroleague) - points they could've used down the stretch.] Matjaz Smodis also helped out on the offensive glass, and did an underrated job defensively in help & post situations.

The season's not done yet for these two squads. CSKA would like to keep their undefeated Russian Superleague record intact with a playoff title. Panathinaikos' '09 title aspirations are not complete just yet, and will likely have to go thru Olympiacos once more. But the most important hardware of the European club season has been handed out, and Panathinaikos has hoisted it for the second time in three years, and the fifth time overall.


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