CSKA Moscow has a star-studded squad with the likes of all-around forward Andrei Kirilenko (C), Serbian guard Milos Teodosic and solid center Nenad Krstic. AFP photo
Title favorite CSKA Moscow starts the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs with a game against surprise package Gescrap Bizkaia Bilbao tonight.
The star-studded Russian
side has a Euroleague-best 15-1 winning record in this campaign, rightly earning the “contender” tag and will try to advance to the Final Four, which will be held in Istanbul in May, after the best-of-five series.
Bilbao, on the other hand, performed above expectations and survived a last-day drama in the Top 16 to knock out Spaniard rivals Real Madrid on the way.
Guard Roger Grimau is aware that his team has already achieved a lot, but refuses to settle with a playoff spot.
“We have to be hungry,” he was quoted as saying on the official Turkish Airlines Euroleague website.
“Everybody says CSKA Moscow is the favorite team in this series. Just a few people thought we would play the Top 16. After this, nobody thought we would be playing the playoffs. Yet here we are. We are not gonna give anything for free to CSKA Moscow.”
With an arsenal of great players, including playmaker Milos Teodosic, solid center Nenad Kristic and all-around forward and Most Valuable Player candidate Andrei Kirilenko, coach Jonas Kazlauskas knows that anything less than a title will be failure for his team. With that in mind, Kazlauskas urges his players to take one game at a time.
“I don’t think about the whole series right now. All my thoughts are about game one,” Kazlauskas said. “Pretty sure that the opponents think the same way.”
In the other playoff game tonight, Montepaschi Siena takes on Olympiacos in a revisiting of last year’s series.