In the United States, CSKA Moscow held two exhibition matches against two NBA teams—the Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs.
Even before this tour, CSKA had been the only European club to have ever defeated an NBA club in the United States (in 2010, they won over the Cleveland Cavaliers.)
Moscow CSKA’s first match in the United States began with a minute of silence, in memory of the legendary basketball player and coach Sergei Belov.
An Olympic champion and two-time world champion, Belov died at the age of 70 on Oct. 3. CSKA played both matches of their U.S. tour with mourning ribbons on their uniforms.
CSKA won over the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime, with a score of 108:106. Moscow CSKA was ahead 17 points during the match, but they could not maintain the advantage and the game went into overtime — where luck was on the Moscow team’s side.
CSKA’s Serbian point guard, Milos Teodosic, became the man of the match, having scored 26 points and 9 assists.
“We played good team basketball, handled the ball great, gave a lot of passes. We did not give up when the opponent destroyed our 17-point advantage in a few minutes. It’s good that the NBA has so many timeouts. I like it; there is a chance to chat with players more often. I would like this rule to be introduced in Europe,” CSKA’s Italian coach,Ettore Messina, told reporters.
"He talked to the teammates about CSKA Moscow before the match. Many people did not understand and did not know who would be playing against them; but here, now after we lost, nobody gets upset and does not think about the game. The main thing is the results of the regular season; the preseason results do not matter,” a Timberwolvesplayer, Alex Swede, said, sharing his impressions of the game.
The teams played by NBA rules, and perhaps the most important difference that showedwas the difference in playing time. In the U.S., a quarter lasts 12 minutes, compared to 10 minutes in Europe.
“Of course, it is unusual to play by the NBA rules, but I liked it; the main thing is that we won in the difficult final part of the game. Plus, here in America, no other European club has been able to do that,” CSKA guardVitaliFridzon told F-Sport agency.
“For me, this is a working victory. We feel happier from a good game rather than from a weak victory. Certainly, this game will give us teamwork, but the style of play in the NBA is quite different to ours. I don’t think we will play in that style in Europe,” said CSKA captain Victor Hrjapa.
In the second match, CSKA was up against the four-time NBA champions and last season’s finalists, the San Antonio Spurs. The CSKA players brought the game to overtime in the second game as well, but, unlike in the match with Minnesota, they could not get as far as victory.
CSKA fell behind in the match by 15 points, due to contributions by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The latter played on Messina’s team, the Italian Kinder (now the Virtus), earlier in his career.
It seemed as if the game was lost forthe "red and blue" CSKA, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich released his reserve players. Then a 15:0 spurt from CSKAreopened the door to possible victory for another five minutes.
In overtime, however, luck was on the side of the hosts. The final score was 95:93, in favor of the Spurs.
“It was a very good game. We confronted a serious contender. Unfortunately, we missed the spurt in the third quarter. In this interval, we felt the real intensity and physics of a game on the NBA level. However, we found the antidote, having weighed down the team of our players. We returned to the game and almost managed to win it,” Messina told reporters.
"If we could win, it would have been very nice, but we must understand that Gregg Popovich, having seen all that he wanted to see, removed his stars from the field. We're going home with a lot of useful information and good experience, because we got to play almost three games — 106 minutes. This is too many by European standards,” said CSKA’s coach. “We are coming back tired but with the necessary experience for the beginning of the season.”
On Oct.13, the regular season begins for CSKA in the Russian league.
First published in Russian in RIA Novosti.