CSKA Defends Title In Kazan Thriller!

CSKA Moscow defeated UNICS Kazan on the road in Game 4 of the playoff finals, 81-74. Strong defense gave the visitors a 14-point lead in the 1st quarter and the Army Men retained control for much of the contest. Arturas Milaknis helped Kazan trim the deficit in the 4th, but six points from Nando De Colo in the final minute was all CSKA needed to defend its title, winning the league for the 6th time!

The playoff finals continued on Wednesday in Kazan with Game 4. UNICS gave students free entry to the game and the crowd delivered, hoping to help Kazan to a second straight win vs. CSKA. You could feel the excitement in the arena even before the players took the court.

Injured in Game 3, Cory Higgins joined Joel Freeland and Nikita Kurbanov on the bench on Wednesday, leaving CSKA short-handed.

Early on, UNICS guard Anton Ponkrashov picked up an unsportsmanlike foul on Nando De Colo. Tensions were high, but the Army Men had a better response, surging ahead in the opening period. CSKA's defense was terrific, limiting Kazan to 11 points in the quarter. At the other end, Dimitris Itoudis's men scored 25, going up 14 points.

Little changed in the 2nd quarter and CSKA coasted into halftime with a commanding 16-point advantage.

Evgeny Pashutin shook things up in the 3rd quarter, inserting Arturas Milaknis into the lineup for the first time. He knocked down three 3-pointers in the period, helping UNICS pull within 13, 58-45.

The sniper kept it going in the final period, making it a six-point game with six minutes to go after yet another '3'.

CSKA's Milos Teodosic answered back with a signature '3' on the very next possession, but Kazan refused to go away, hitting big shot after big shot.

Turning Point
After a short break, Milaknis came back into the game, continuing to lead the way on offense. The Lithuanian finished with 23 points on 7-11 shooting from downtown. With 53 seconds to play, Ponkrashov chipped in, cutting the deficit to three on a 3-pointer.

But regular season MVP Nando De Colo refused to let his team lose. He scored on a layup on CSKA's next possession, then coolly converted four free throws to give the Army Men the win.

Star Player
Nando De Colo. The Frenchman struggled against UNICS's defense (3-16 from the field), but he finished with a team-high 16 points and got going when his team needed him most. De Colo's six points in the final minute were a huge part of CSKA's win.

A beautiful celebration ceremony capped CSKA's title. The Red-Blues stormed through the 2016 playoffs, losing only once. VTB United League president Sergey Kushchenko, general director Andrey Shirokov and deputy Ilona Korstin were there to present the medals. UNICS was also recognized for its second-place finish, the team's third-ever in the VTB United League. Milos Teodosic, named the playoff MVP, was also recognized in the post-game ceremony.

Stat of the Game
6 - CSKA becomes league champion for the 6th time!

CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis:
- We had a terrific season and won in all three competitions: Euroleague, VTB United League and Russian championship. Our team showed it was a champion. We played for those who couldn't play in this game, for Kurbanov and Higgins. Our players were an example of how to win. Thank you to the players for enduring my criticism during the season. I think it was helpful. Thank you to the club's leadership, coaches, managers and fans. In the future, we want to maintain this winning attitude. Congratulations to UNICS on a good game. Kazan deserved to be in the finals.

UNICS head coach Evgeny Pashutin:
- Thank you to everyone for the season. Special thanks to our fans, who created an unbelievable atmosphere in the gym. We played with our heart. Trailing by 21 points, we didn't give up. We cut the deficit to three points. We acquitted ourselves well. We played with honor against CSKA.