CSKA Moscow is the first finalist of the Euroleague after beating Panathinaikos in the semi-finals of the Final Four round. The Russians, favoured to win the tournament, had a difficult time seeing off the feisty Greek side. In a nail-bitting finish, the Russians managed to seal their spot in the final as they overcame their opponents. The final will be played this Sunday at 20:00, just after the third and fourth place match (17:00).
Under the brilliant direction of the ex-Barça man Sarunas Jasikevicius, Panathinaikos completed a fantastic first quarter. After 5 minutes the Greek side had a 12-point advantage (7-19), which forced the CSKA manager, Jonas Kazlauskas, to call a timeout. His men had become obsessed with attempting three-point shots (one of nine had gone in), while the Greeks, who were extremely accurate, closed out the quarter with a 15-29 lead.
Powerful Russian reaction
The rhythm of play and the scoring slowed down in the next quarter. In fact, only seven points were scored, 4-3, in the first five minutes (19-32). Panathinakos were unable to extend their lead throughout the half, and the Russians fought back to level the scoring on 32. Kirilenko stepped up to lead the Russian team. The player’s three pointer gave CSKA their first lead of the match (41-39, min 24). However, the Greek side didn’t give up and, led by Diamantidis, they managed to close out the half with a slight lead (51-55).
CSKA seals final berth
The Greek side dominated the game at the start of the second half. There were a lot of interruptions and little fluidity, all part of Panathinaikos’ strategy to slow the Russians down. The Greeks went into the last four minutes of the match with the lead, 60-64, thanks to the performances of Diamantidis and Jasikevicius. In the dying minutes of the game, CSKA turned it around by going on a six-point run and Teodosic tried to seal the win with two free throws with eight seconds left. He missed them. The Greeks had one last chance to force overtime, but they too, missed their shot. CSKA won with difficulty, but their in the final.