Andrei Kirilenko and CSKA Moscow: Week of 5/7 (Euroleague Final Four)
15-year-old AK in his first professional game and first post-game interview, via selloutxboy.
If you would’ve told me a year ago that I would have crazy, excited butterflies in my stomach in the days leading up to and during the Euroleague Final Four, I wouldn’t have believed it. Funny how life goes.
One definite advantage the Euroleague has over the two other leagues CSKA Moscow plays in: Teams in the league come from so many nations that all coverage is in English, i.e. I can finally understand AK’s interviews again.
CSKA Moscow’s journey to the Final Four started with the team flying players and their families to Istanbul:
On Day 1 in Istanbul, there were press conferences, interviews, photo shoots, and P.R. events. It was AK’s first trip to the Final Four since 2001.
The main press conference had the star and coach of every Final Four team at the podium.
CSKA Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas: I am sure that my team will show all their best in competition for this trophy.
Andrei Kirilenko: I’m very happy to be here. It’s great competition. I think for this moment, four best teams from Europe playing this Final Four, and it’s going to be very tough to win the trophy, but I think we did a pretty good job during the whole season and we deserve to play here. (EL)
Next, each star-coach tandem posed with the Euroleague championship trophy:
On Day 2 in Istanbul, CSKA Moscow took the court against defending champs Panathinaikos in the first of two semi-finals matchups that would determine who goes to the Finals.
CSKA looked awful out of the gate. The team was settling for long jumpers and iso’s–which is totally uncharacteristic of the style of basketball they play–and building a brick house. On the other end, they looked lost on defense and gave up tons of open shots. AK and Nenad Krstic were called for two fouls each before four minutes were out; Krstic was subbed out, but AK stayed in the game. For once, Kazlauskas’ “I smell something disgusting and I know it’s you” expression was warranted.
Midway through the game, the camera panned to none other than Deron Williams and wife making their way to courtside seats.
Tweeted by Deron:
In the second quarter, CSKA managed to hold PAO to five points, which was the lowest point total for a quarter in Euroleague Final Four history. However, they weren’t making any headway because they weren’t scoring either. A successful run of iso’s by Alexey Shved got CSKA back in the game, and then in a facepalm move (for PAO), they fouled AK behind the line with 2 minutes to go in the half. AK made 2 of 3, making it a 3-point game. A block and rebound later, AK hit a 3 to tie the game. Halftime: 34-32.
In the third quarter, CSKA took its first lead of the game on another AK 3. It was close the rest of the way. In the final minute, CSKA point guard Milos Teodosic put CSKA up two with a bucket, but proceeded to miss two free throws in the final seconds that could’ve put CSKA up four. PAO had a chance to tie or win the game on the final possession, but lost the ball and never got a shot off. And it was onto the Finals for CSKA.
On Day 3, the Euroleague held its annual award ceremony (covered in detail here).
On Day 4, CSKA faced the tournament’s Cinderella team Olympiacos, which had taken out Barcelona in the other semi-final game two days earlier. These were two teams that know each other well, as CSKA Coach Jonas Kazlauskas previously coached Olympiacos, and Olympiacos Coach Dusan Ivkovic previously coached CSKA Moscow. Teodosic also previously starred for Olympiacos (and won Euroleague MVP in 2010 while he was with the team), and also plays for Ivkovic on the Serbian national team along with Krstic.
Deron was at the game again…
…and tweeting pics of “my boi AK47”:
The above was written as events happened, which all took place before halftime of the championship game. The game ended in a devastating, gut-wrenching way with CSKA losing its 19-point first half lead and Olympiacos taking its first lead since 7-6 on the final shot of the game with 0.7 seconds left. Olympiacos won the game and championship by one point.
After Game 3 against the Spurs, I said I just wanted to forget everything and remember Derrick Favors’ block on Tiago Splitter. I wish I could just remember this:
But somehow I can’t. This game HURTS. Again, if you had told me a year ago…
CSKA now returns home to Moscow (and apparently Deron and his wife are traveling there with AK and Masha) and will play in the Russian Professional Basketball League finals this week (best of five; CSKA’s last games of the season).