Baskonia halts CSKA's streak in a thriller, 95-93
In their record 43rd Turkish Airlines EuroLeague game this century, TD System Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz stopped visiting CSKA Moscow 95-93 in a thriller that went down to the wire on Thursday. Baskonia lifted its record to 9-9 while ending CSKA's 12-game winning streak and dropping the visitors to 14-4. Baskonia led by 15 late in the first quarter and 12 after three, but CSKA rallied to go ahead 55-60 between those extremes and had a chance to win or tie until Mike James missed the game's last shot. Pierria Henry had 18 points and 10 assists to lead the winners, and Achille Polonara matched his scoring. Rokas Giedraitis added 17 points, Youssoupha Fall 16 and Luca Vildoza 12 for Baskonia, which posted its highest scoring total of the season. James had 20 points and 7 assists for CSKA, which played without injured stars Will Clyburn and Daniel Hackett. Joel Bolomboy, Janis Strelnieks and Tornike Shengelia -- Baskonia's long-time leader until switching this season to CSKA -- all had 13 points for the visitors.
Giedraitis and Darrun Hilliard traded triples to open the scoring. Hilliard added another before Fall, Henry, Polonara and Giedraitis all scored in close for an 11-6 Baskonia advantage. Tadas Sedekerskis hit from deep and Henry fed Giedraitis for a 17-8 lead. James and Fall traded baskets before the big man converted a three-point play, Sedekerskis and Giedraitis combined for 5 points before Polonara scored off feeds from Tonye Jekiri and Henry for 31-19 score after 10 minutes. Semen Antonov and Bolomboy put back 3 misses early in the second quarter and Janis Strelnieks buried a triple and a pull-up jumper as CSKA drew closer, 35-31. Triples from Giedraitis and Alec Peters soon reestablish a 41-31 Baskonia lead. Strelnieks kept it going but Henry's nifty layup and three-pointer sustained the lead at 46-38. Shengalia's jump-hook preceded James ending his relative silence with a cagey and-one three-pointer that turned into a five-play with a technical free throw 3 seconds before the half for CSKA to make it a whole new game, 46-45.
Bolomboy, Fall, Hilliard and Henry batted the lead back and forth to start the second half. Soon, James and Ivan Ukhov buried triples as CSKA pulled away to its biggest lead, 55-60. Fall dunked a miss and Vildoza buried a triple to quickly tie it, 60-60. James stepped back for a triple at 62-65 that Henry matched. Fall powered for a three-point play, Polonara drilled from the arc and Vildoza stole to feed Giedraitis at 73-67. Vildoza had even better in him, though, with a four-point play to close Baskonia's 19-2 third-quarter finish with a 79-67 lead. Nikita Kurbanov started the fourth quarter with a triple for CSKA before Bolomboy and Polonara had dueling alley-oop slams. James drilled from near half-court and Strelnieks from the corner as CSKA pulled within 82-78. Sedekerskis climbed off the bench for a corner triple at 85-80. Bolomboy combined a dunk, a tip-in and a block that set up Shengelia's put-back to cut the difference to 88-86. Polonara blasted a huge triple then but Antonov came on to match him for a 91-89 score entering the last 2 minutes. Peters and Shengelia exchanged inside baskets before Vildoza, with 14.2 seconds left, snatched an offensive rebound and made 1 of 2 free throws at 94-91. Strelnieks was fouled on a transition triple with 9.2 seconds left, but the sixth-most-accurate free throw shooter in EuroLeague history made only the first 2 of his 3 chances. Fall split a pair at the other end, making it 95-93 with 8.0 seconds left. CSKA inbounded to James, who got loose as Henry tried to steal, but couldn't make his fall-away jumper, leaving the victory in Vitoria-Gasteiz with Baskonia.
The duel between Henry and James was memorable, but when the latter's shot missed at the finish, the former came away with the win. Henry had 18 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals for a 27 PIR, while James finished with 20 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 1 steal for a 25 PIR. They were that close and so was the final score. Great duel.
CSKA recovered all of a 15-point deficit to take a 55-60 midway through the third quarter. Vildoza scored 9 points in the next 5 minutes, including a four-point play on the buzzer, as Baskonia finished the quarter with a 19-2 run to reestablish a double-digit lead, 79-67, that held up, although barely, until the end of the game.
Fall won the battle of the boards
A week after he pulled 19 rebounds, including a EuroLeague-record 16 on offense, Baskonia was determined not to let MVP of December Nikola Milutinov of CSKA dominate the boards. The hosts won the rebounding battle 12-7 in the first quarter and held Milutinov to just 3 rebounds in his 13 minutes on the floor, eventually losing the team rebounding battle by just 35-36. The EuroLeague's biggest player, 2.21-meter Youssoupha Fall, was the big factor early in taking Milutinov out of the game early and finished with a team-high 9 rebounds. Fall has now scored 54 points in his last three games against CSKA.
Did you know?
Until Thursday, Baskonia had won every game in which Alec Peters scored more than 15 points, and lost all those when he scored 15 of fewer. This time, however, his scoring was not needed. Peters had 6 points and Baskonia won anyway.
Baskonia spends next week's double-round on the road, starting with a visit to Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul on Tuesday, January 12. CSKA spends the week at home and first hosts Zalgiris Kaunas on Wednesday of Round 19.
Thursday, January 7, 2021