Rodriguez Shines, CSKA Cruises To Championship Game

Rodriguez Shines, CSKA Cruises To Championship Game

CSKA Moscow advanced to the VTB United League championship with an 84-67 win over Zenit St. Petersburg (14-10, 30-20, 19-11, 21-26).

Top Scorers
CSKA: Sergio Rodriguez (21 + 5 ast), Will Clyburn (20 + 5 reb), Nando De Colo (13), Kyle Hines (11)

Zenit: Demonte Harper (18 + 7 reb), Sergey Karasev (11), Evgeny Valiev (11), Kyle Kuric (10)

Sergio Rodriguez dazzled the VTB Ice Palace crowd on Friday night, scoring a playoff-record 21 points in the first half as CSKA seized control of its semifinal match-up with Zenit and roared into Sunday night’s championship where it meets the winner of UNICS – Khimki. 

The top-seeded Army Men led by only four points at the end of the opening period, held to 14 points on 6-15 shooting. 

But Spanish wizard Sergio Rodriguez scored an absurd 19 points in the first six minutes of the 2nd quarter, turning a close game into a rout. The Army Men led by as much as 18 before halftime and maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way. 

Rodriguez finished with a game-high 21 points and a 29 efficiency rating despite going scoreless in the second half. 

St. Petersburg’s offense floundered under the bright lights in Moscow. Vasily Karasev’s men turned the ball over 21 turnovers including seven from stars Sergey Karasev and Kyle Kuric, who combined for a measly 2-9 from beyond the arc. 

Zenit outrebounded CSKA, but never found its stroke, averaging 37% from the field as a team. 

Demonte Harper was the lone bright spot for the four-seed, coming off the bench to record 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists. But the American guard had little help as the Army Men rolled to a semifinal win. 

Big Effort

CSKA’s defense never gave Zenit a chance in this game, highlighted by Kyle Hines’ block on Sergey Karasev to finish the first half. 

0 – Zenit never led in the game, seeing its championship hopes dashed by a dominant performance from CSKA. St. Petersburg has now reached the VTB United League semifinals in three consecutive seasons without advancing to the finals. 

Zenit head coach Vasily Karasev:
– I have no criticisms for my players in the first half. They did everything they could. We lost because of offense, including a lot of missed shots under the basket. The number of turnovers was probably connected to some nerves. Very few of our players, after all, have much experience at Final Fours.

CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis:
– Congratulations to the team on the win. We were clearly better than our opponent today. If you analyze the game, it’s obvious both teams had some nerves at the beginning. We made mistakes on offense. At the same time, we were focused on defense. For such a talented team with dynamic shooters and a complex offense, Zenit’s stats made that obvious. They scored 10 and 11 points in the first two quarters. That’s how we set the tone for the game. Of course, we’re not happy about our 19 turnovers, which included a lot of unforced mistakes, but they help us know where we can improve. Overall, we were focused, determined and showed great understanding on defense. We need to relax, watch the tape and prepare for the next game. I also want to congratulate Zenit on a great season in the VTB League and the EuroCup. 

Up Next
CSKA: Championship, June 10 at 7:00 PM
Zenit: Third Place Game, June 10 at 4:00 PM

Images of the Game

08/06/2018 CSKA-Zenit 84:67