CSKA crowned champions!!!

CSKA Moscow defeated Nizhny Novgorod in Game 3 of the playoff finals, 82-66, to capture the championship. The game was even for most of the first half, before CSKA dominated the final three minutes to pull ahead by seven points at halftime. Just as in the first two games, the Army Men took advantage of their lead, adding to it throughout the second half. The Red and Blue sweep Nizhny Novgorod in three games to 3-peat in the VTB United League.

Despite coinciding with a holiday and the start of the World Cup, the USH CSKA was almost completely full. Prior to tip-off, Nizhny Novgorod captain Semen Antonov was honored as the top Russian player in the 2013-2014 VTB United League. League general director Andrey Shirokov presented the forward with his prize.

The game started on an Andrey Vorontsevich dunk, helping set the tone. Both teams were aggressive and combined for 19 points in the first five minutes (11-8 CSKA). The home team, however, was sloppy early, committing five turnovers in the first quarter, and gave up two 3-pointers to Dijon Thompson (Nizhny Novgorod struggled terribly in the first two games to connect from downtown). Playing with more confidence, the Black and White managed to take the lead for just the second time in the series. They were unable to hold on until the end of the quarter, though, with CSKA’s powerful frontcourt led by Kyle Hines and Nenad Krstic giving CSKA the 23-22 lead.

Pavel Korobkov and Vladimir Ivlev’s aggressive play, Milos Teodosic’s 3-pointers and Alexander Kaun’s dominance under the basket headlined the second period, with the momentum and the lead changing nearly every possession. Late in the half, however, Nizhny stumbled, much like in Game 2. The visitors had played the champions even for most of the first quarter in that game, but gave up a 7-0 run in just one minute, after which they failed to get back in the game. This time, the Army Men’s dominance lasted for three minutes, with CSKA putting together a 10-2 stretch, highlighted by Sonny Weems’s block on Evgeny Baburin and fast-break 3-pointer at the other end. The savvy Red and Blue players, just as in the two games in Nizhny Novgorod, once again managed to sap their opponent’s energy and put together a healthy halftime lead (44-37).

The final round of the Miss Cheerleader League of Beauty Contest was held during halftime, with Giedre Abromaviciute of Lietuvos Rytas taking home the crown. When the game resumed, both teams struggled to score at first. CSKA won the stretch, 5-2, making it a 10-point game. Ettore Messina’s team found success in Nizhny Novgorod largely thanks to impressive third quarters. This time, the Muscovites weren’t quite as dominant, but they still won the period by four points, 15-11, picking up a 59-48 advantage.

Turning Point
Nizhny Novgorod was unable to get back in the contest in the fourth quarter. After a brief pause, CSKA levied the final championship blow. Viktor Khryapa got it started with a ‘3’, then Kaun followed up in the paint. Sonny Weems threw down a powerful dunk soon after on a Teodosic alley-oop. CSKA led, 72-52. Zoran Lukic called timeout, but it was clear that nothing could be done. CSKA wins in impressive fashion, closing the series in three games to win the VTB United League for the third-straight time!

Awards Ceremony
A beautiful awards ceremony capped off CSKA’s triumphant evening. The playoffs weren’t easy for CSKA and the Muscovites gleefully celebrated their title after such a long, exhausting road. VTB United League president Sergey Ivanov presented the champions with their medals, while not forgetting about the scrappy Nizhny Novgorod players, who earned silver for their club for the first time. Zoran Lukic’s men made a huge step forward this season. Finally, the main star on the Army club in the playoffs, Milos Teodosic, was recognized as Finals MVP.

Star of the Game
Milos Teodosic. The Serbian playmaker was terrific in the playoffs and the final game was no exception. Milos spent 31 minutes on the court, more than anyone else on the team, and didn’t commit a single turnover. His deadly 3-pointers connected at just the right time, demoralizing the opposition. He was also sharp distributing the ball, picking up six assists.

Stat of the Game
13 – number of assists by Nizhny Novgorod. The Army Men had 24. The Black and White offense never quite reached its potential in the playoffs.

CSKA head coach Ettore Messina:
- There probably isn't much I can add to what I said after the second game in Nizhny Novgorod. I'm grateful to the team, the players. They did something incredible. They were united, they played with desire, helped each other out and finished these playoffs on a 9-0 run. We need to thank our leaders. I especially want to say that Teo absolutely deserved the title of playoff MVP. We had ups and downs this season, but at the end we played consistently and acted like a team, with an enormous sense of responsibility and overcame the resistance of very strong opponents. 

Nizhny Novgorod head coach Zoran Lukic:
- Congratulations to CSKA on the win in the VTB United League, congratulations to head coach Ettore Messina. I wish him all the best in the future. Nizhny Novgorod also demonstrated an excellent result. I'm happy for the team and the city. For me this silver has a fleck of gold in it. 

Top Performers
CSKA: Alexander Kaun – 20 points; Milos Teodosic – 16 points, six assists; Sonny Weems – 13 points; Andrey Vorontsevich – eight points, six rebounds; Vitaly Fridzon – eight points, five assists; Viktor Khryapa – five points, 10 rebounds, eight assists.

Nizhny Novgorod: Dijon Thompson – 14 points, nine rebounds; Petr Gubanov – 13 points; Taylor Rochestie – 12 points; Pavel Korobkov – 11 points; Semen Antonov – nine points, five rebounds