CSKA strikes back in Berlin
CSKA Moscow avenged an early-season loss and stayed perfect all-time in the German capital by downing host ALBA Berlin 68-71 on Wednesday. The victory kept CSKA in second place at 16-6, tied with leaders FC Barcelona. ALBA fell to 8-14 and remains in 14th place. It was a back-and-forth battle in which CSKA, after being up by a game-high of 12-20 but giving up the lead in the middle quarters, struck back with 12-19 final quarter prevail. Toko Shengelia led the winners, who were without top scorer Mike James, with 20 points. Daniel Hackett followed with 13, including 8 in the fourth quarter, while Nikola Milutinov registered a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds. ALBA got 15 points from Peyton Siva but otherwise spread around it's scoring and suffered from CSKA's 6-12 advantage on the offensive glass.
Shengelia slammed twice among his 7 points as CSKA jumped ahead 3-9, with ALBA's only score for 3 minutes came on a triple by Marcus Ericsson. Simone Fontecchio, Jayson Granger and Ben Lammers soon joined the scoring for the hosts to make it 9-11. Ericsson fired ALBA ahead from deep, but Hackett and Nikita Kurbanov did the same for CSKA to lead 12-17. Darrun Hilliard drove to make it 12-20, but Siva's triple ended ALBA's four-minute scoring drought to leave a 15-20 score after one quarter. Siva and Johannes Thiemann kept ALBA scoring while a rainbow triple from Johannes Voigtmann and 4 quick points by Alexander Khomenko kept CSKA ahead 21-27. Siva responded with 2 free throws and back-to-back triples to suddenly tie it 29-29. Khomenko broke the tie and Lammers re-established it at 31-31. Granger hit free throws and Luke Sikma fed Fontecchia as ALBA took its first lead since 3-2. Fontecchio kept it going to for ALBA before Janis Strelnieks stopped CSKA's nearly five-minute field goal drought to cut the difference to 37-34 at the half.
Hackett and Milutinov from the foul line and Ivan Ukhov from downtown tied it 41-41 after the break, then Milutinov put CSKA back in front and Shengelia soon extended the lead to 45-49 with back-to-back triples. Sikma from deep and Siva from the free throw line let ALBA tie at 52-52. ALBA's defense took over then, holding CSKA scoreless for nearly 5 minutes to reach the end of the third quarter in front by 56-52. Louis Olinde's reverse layup made it 58-53 to open the fourth, but CSKA kept driving and drawing fouls until regaining a 58-59 lead on free throws by Hackett. Granger went coast-to-coast to make it 60-61 with just over 4 minutes left. Shengelia scored in close and Hackett drove strong to make it 60-65, but Granger buried a huge three for the hosts. Hackett's two-point jumper was answered by Lo's dancing layup at 65-67. CSKA forced consecutive ALBA turnovers before the final minute, which Shengelia started with a jump-hook. After a long stoppage, Fontecchio found Lo for a smooth triple to make it 68-69 with 28.7 seconds left. Shengelia made 2 free throws with 9.6 seconds left and then ALBA missed its only shot to tie, sending the victory back to Moscow.
Shengelia opened the game with back-to-back dunks fed to him by Nikola Milutinov on the same play and finished it with CSKA's last 4 points in the final minute to preserve the victory. He finished with 20 points, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 block for a PIR of 21 in 26 minutes. With those last 4 points, Shengelia became the 39th player to reach 2,000 in his EuroLeague career. His total is now 2,003.
It was 65-67 with 2 minutes left, after which ALBA got consecutive chances to tie or go ahead. CSKA's defense forced a 24-second violation on ALBA in the first instance and trapped Jayson Granger into a turnover on the next. With 37 seconds left, Toko Shengelia downed a difficult jump-hook to make it a two-possession game, which was one too many for ALBA considering CSKA's great defense.
Bench boss returns
Head Coach Aito Garcia Reneses, who had missed ALBA's last six EuroLeague games after testing positive for COVID-19, returned to the sidelines for this game. At 74 years old, Coach Aito, as he is known to all, is the oldest person to coach a EuroLeague team this century.
CSKA announced on the eve of the game that Mike James, the EuroLeague's top scorer and MVP of November this season, did not fly with the team to Berlin due to a club decision. Shortly before tipoff, the club made public that James had been suspended from team practices and games, indicating that his future with the team would be decided in the coming days.
Both teams get right back at it in 48 hours for home games in Round 23. ALBA stays home to face mighty Real Madrid on Friday while CSKA returns home to face its second German team of the week, FC Bayern Munich, on the same night.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021