On this day five years ago in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, CSKA Moscow set a new playoff record with 28 assists in a 100-80 Game 2 win over visiting Panathinaikos Athens to a take 2-0 lead in their best-of-five playoff series. CSKA, in its first year with Coach Dimitris Itoudis on the bench, not only set a playoff record, but improved on the mark the team set just two days earlier in the opener of this best-of-five series.
CSKA went ahead early with Andrei Kirilenko striking three times from downtown in a 15-0 run to put CSKA in control. CSKA finished the first half with 6-of-11 three-point shooting and 14 assists and held a 47-35 lead at halftime. The hosts never looked back, using a team effort to extend its lead to 72-54 at the end of the third quarter. For CSKA, all 12 players spent at least 9 minutes on the floor and scored at least 3 points. Sonny Weems led the winners with 20 points while Andrei Kirilenko and Nando De Colo had 16 points apiece. Vasilis Charalampopoulos paced six scorers in double figures for Panathinaikos with 14 points and Nikos Pappas and James Gist each added 13.
Dishing for records
CSKA came into the game fresh off a playoff record with 27 assists in a 27-point win in the series opener just two days earlier. But Coach Itoudis’s men did one better in this contest, improving the record by dishing 28 assists, something no team has matched in a playoff game to this day. Nine different CSKA players had multiple assists in Game 2 led by Milos Teodosic who had 8 in less than 21 minutes on the floor, while Nando De Colo dished 4. CSKA went on to set a single-series record with an average of 23.3 assists per game and finished the season with 20.8 assists per game, the club’s single-season best and the second-best all-time behind only Real Madrid’s 21.5 that same season. Interestingly, Panathinaikos also set its playoff club single-game record in the series by dishing 26 assists in Game 3.
A jump-start for Itoudis
This was the first season for Coach Itoudis at the helm of the Russian powerhouse and Game 2 was only his second EuroLeague playoff game as a head coach. Moreover, the Greek native was facing Panathinaikos, his former team where he spent 13 years as an assistant coach and helped the Greens win five EuroLeague titles. But none of that proved to be an obstacle for him or CSKA. His team combined to dish 55 assists and win by a combined margin of 47 points in the first two games. Itoudis has never lost a EuroLeague Playoff series as a head coach, winning in all five of his playoff trips and he is tied with Zeljko Obradovic for a record five consecutive playoff series wins – and counting.
What happened next
Panathinaikos won Game 3 at home 86-85, but CSKA dominated in Game 4 and behind its 55-74 win reached the 2015 Final Four – its 12th in 13 years. But at the end-of-season event in Madrid, CSKA lost a semifinals thriller against Olympiacos Piraeus 68-70 before finishing in third place by beating Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul 86-80. CSKA would go all the way a year later to win the 2016 crown and did so again in 2019.