This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (1-2) vs. CSKA Moscow (N/A)
Time: 7:00 PM Central Daylight Time
Place: The New Myriad, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Until they get a new sponsor, I can call it whatever I want!)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Enemy Blog(s): Ballin' Europe
Previous Meeting(s): None.
Moscau! The Thunder go behind the Iron Curtain tonight to play a Euroleague opponent. The old Red Army team, no less. It's really odd to see the headline, "Oklahoma City vs. Moscow" above, but it's also pretty awesome. When is the last time Oklahoma city played Moscow in anything? Regardless, this won't be an easy team to beat.
CSKA Moscow has a track record of success in the Euroleague, reaching all 4 of the past championships, and winning 2 of those. It is also the former club of Andrei Kirilenko, Darius Songaila, Goran Dragic, and Theodoros Papaloukas, probably the best current non-NBA player. Currently, the club is home to former NBA player Viktor Khryapa, the star and captain of the team. He never played much in the NBA, but he's considered to be the best Russian player not named Kirilenko, and he's an excellent scorer. Helping him out in the paint is Sasha Kaun, who had an excellent performance for Russia in this Summer's world championships, and is known as a defensive stalwart. At small forward, the team has Lithuanian Ramunas Sikauskas, who is another defensive and shot-blocking specialist, in a similar vein to Kirilenko. The guards for the team are actually both Americans. Trajan Langdon, at Shooting Guard, is a former member of Elton Brand's Duke team that almost won the championship in 1999. He was drafted 11th overall, but failed to catch on in the NBA after three seasons, and now has made a name for himself in Europe. He's mainly a scoring specialist from the wing, and has excellent shooting percentages. Holding down the point is Dual Russian and American citizen J.R. Holden. (That was a good sentence, don't you think?) After playing college in Bucknell, he went straight to Europe, and has been with CSKA Moscow since 2002. He's so revered there that he actually became a citizen, and played for the Russian National Team until last Summer's World Championships. He used to be a good scorer, but more recently he's settled down into being an assist and defense man.
Below: The Bench, How They Stack Up With the Thunder, Prediction.
The team's bench is mainly composed of younger players who haven't made names for themselves yet. Notables include Sergei Bykov, the Point Guard for the Russian National Team last summer, Jamont Gordon, a former Mississippi State player, and Matjaz Smodis, a good scoring big man who used to play for the Slovenian National team.
How does this team match up with the Thunder? Quite excellently, actually. Both teams are highly defensively oriented, and it will be interesting to see how the Thunder's great perimeter defense matches up against CSKA Moscow's great interior defense and outside scoring. However, CSKA Moscow is great at scoring as a team, while the Thunder rely on a few key players to do their work. And the superstar level of talent that Kevin Durant brings is what I think will push the Thunder over the top. Teamwork and defense trump all, but teamwork and defense plus a superstar wins championships. Sorry Victor Khryapa, but you just don't stack up.
Alright, let's go! DEVOTION! (Don't you wish the NBA had a theme song like this?)
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 97, CSKA Moscow 95