Basketball / CSKA Moscow Squeaks Past Maccabi TA

"This was one of the greatest games I've seen in Europe," said CSKA Moscow's center Victor Alexander at the end of his team's 87-84 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Yad Eliyahu Thursday night. Alexander did not get much playing time in the game, but it is hard to argue with his analysis from the bench.

In a matchup between two teams that are likely to meet again in the Final Four, CSKA came erased a 19-point deficit to get the win.

Unlike previous games, Maccabi Coach Pini Gershon used his bench extensively, mainly due to foul trouble encountered by Maceo Baston and Tal Burstein. The substitutions had little effect in the first half, as Anthony Parker put on an amazing display (17 points, including 8 of 9 from the field), and CSKA made only one of 10 three-pointers. Maccabi cruised to a 28-18 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 49-34 advantage at the half.

Maccabi stretched its lead to 19 points (67-48) following a three-point play by Parker, at which stage Gershon decided to rest his star. After Baston missed two free throws, CSKA started a third-quarter rampage of 29 points that included a 15-1 stretch, mainly due to Marcus Brown and John Holden, who finished with 24 and 17 points, respectively.

While Maccabi's 68-63 lead at the outset of the fourth quarter looked shaky, nice moves by Burstein and Nikola Vujcic pushed the lead to seven, 79-72, after 35 minutes. But a steal and basket by Brown with just 2:18 remaining brought CSKA to within two, 81-79. Vujcic answered with a basket, but Brown drew a foul from Parker and sank three free throws to cut the lead to 83-82.

Baston sank one of two shots from the foul line with 35 seconds left, then after a mad scramble for a loose ball, CSKA gained possession and Brown scorched a three-pointer to put Moscow on top, 85-84. Maccabi mounted one last effort, but Burstein's drive to the hoop just missed. CSKA rebounded and tossed the ball down court to Brown, who waltzed in with a final layup at the buzzer, giving it the three-point victory.