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Andrei Kirilenko and CSKA Moscow: Week of 2/27 to Week of 3/13

March 20, 2012

@jeskeets tweeted this pic out yesterday…and I haven’t been able to stop laughing since. Seriously, this is the funniest thing ever. I’m never going to be depressed or sad again!

As CSKA had already qualified for the Euroleague quarterfinals, its final game of the Top 16 at Anadolu Efes on 2/29 didn’t carry a great deal of significance.

AK hit a 3 to open the game, which was good (he made it) and bad (he’d want to shoot more…and in fact he airballed his second 3-attempt in the final minute of the quarter). He ended up scoring 8 of CSKA’s first 11 points in every which way possible: aforementioned 3, free throw, bank shot, alley-layup.

I can’t imagine that it was the game plan, but CSKA was going to him early in a way I haven’t seen. Andrei usually plays more of a facilitator role, which he settled into after the first five minutes (4 assists over the next 9 minutes). It was close through the first quarter, but CSKA’s second unit broke the game open in the second.

CSKA eventually won 82-65 despite AK’s six 3-point attempts (he made 2).

Jonas Kazlauskas opted to rest AK in the second game of the week against BC Enisey (3/3), which ended up being a cake walk for CSKA, 91-64.

The following week kicked off with a VTB game at Nymburk (Czech Republic) on 3/7. The game wasn’t of any particular importance either, but even so it was surprising that Kazlauskas decided to rest 4 of his 5 starters (which meant that they didn’t even travel with the team), including AK. Kazlauskas’ reasoning? As quoted on CSKA’s official website:

“Some of the guys needed rest, some have minor health problems, some have to resolve personal issues.”

Whether missing four starters was the reason, CSKA suffered its worst defeat of the season, 60-79. Their worst loss before this was by ten points, and this was their fourth loss in 42 games. Kazlauskas*, post-game:

Yes, we left four our leading players at home. And it looks like all the others decided that they went on a trip to rest, for vacations. There are no excuses for that. I have to apologize to our fans.

* BTW, Kazlauskas makes Jerry Sloan look like Jolly Ol’ St. Nick.

The usual starting lineup was back for the second game of the week at BC Azovmash (Ukraine) on 3/10, which incidentally was Fes’ first team. It was yet another blowout for CSKA, with the final score being 62-37. AK finished the game with 9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks in 23 minutes.

You really just have to commend this team (Azovmash, that is) and the league for staying alive. They were literally playing in the equivalent of a high school gym: A few rows of bleachers, with an upper deck where only a few spectators watched.

CSKA at UNICS (PBL) on 3/13 marked the first time I ever found myself understanding the Russian commentary on a CSKA game. AK bricked a three, and the commentator said, “Kirilenko, nyet.” :)

It would turn out to be a fantastic all-around game for AK, though. 15 points (5-10), 10 boards, 2 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks in 31 minutes. CSKA dominated from the second quarter on, and ended up winning 75-57. It continues to sit at the top of the league with a record of 12-1.

Dancers on the podium…really?

Second game of the week (3/16) was a matchup against Lokomotiv Kuban, which would be the last game of the VTB League’s regular season. With all five starters present and accounted for, CSKA rolled to a 88-73 victory. Nobody on CSKA played more than 24 minutes.

If I’m reading the bracket on VTB’s website correctly, CSKA finished the regular season at the top of its conference and therefore gets an automatic berth in the Final 4. During the month of April, the 2nd to 4th place finishers in each conference (six teams) will be fighting for the two places in the Final 4 that don’t go to the 1st place finisher in each conference. The Final 4 will start in May.

CSKA finished the Euroleague Top 16 round with a 5-1 record, which ranks second after the undefeated Barcelona.

The Euroleague Quarterfinals start tomorrow, with CSKA’s best-of-5 (2-2-1) series against Gescrap Bilbao (Spain) opening in Moscow. AK was quoted in Spain’s El Mundo as saying he’s looking forward to seeing his old Jazz buddy, Raul Lopez. Lopez’ time with the Jazz wasn’t anything to write home about, but he was once the featured cover boy of Homecourt Magazine.

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