Depth, defense made the difference for CSKA

Nov 02, 2018 by Print
Depth, defense made the difference for CSKA

In recent years, CSKA Moscow has been best known for high-scoring basketball led by star guard and former EuroLeague MVP Nando De Colo. So if one were to say that CSKA would score just 69 points and see that Nikita Kurbanov was sidelined and De Colo kept scoreless for the first time in his EuroLeague career, it might be hard to fathom a CSKA victory. However, thanks to the team's depth and a tremendous defensive effort, CSKA was able to overcome Olympiacos Piraeus and remain undefeated on the season.

Coach Dimitris Itoudis referenced both his team's defense and the play of his reserves in his post-game comments. "Today we had also to dig a lot and we saw the deep bench that we have with Misha [Kulagin] giving us 11 quality minutes, Vorontsevich scoring a very important three-pointer and rebounds and a couple of defenses," Itoudis said. "It shows we have a good rotation that is ready. I like this versatility. It's another example that we can win under 70 points."

Kulagin entered the game at halftime after not appearing in the first half; he took the place on the floor of De Colo. Itoudis said he decided at halftime would not play De Colo in the second half; De Colo had suffered from migraines during the week and was not at his best in his time on the floor in the first half. Kulagin's contributions cannot be seen in his individual statistics, but they can be seen from the team's improvement. Kulagin played the entire third quarter, during which CSKA forced 7 turnovers and overran the Reds 21-9.

In a game that CSKA won by 4 points, it outscored Olympiacos by 12 with Kulagin on the floor. When the 24-year-old guard was watching, the score was 48-54 for the visitors. While much credit – and deservedly so – goes to Sergio Rodriguez for his 6 three-point shots and great playmaking and to Will Clyburn for his strong all-around performance, CSKA was only able to overcome Olympiacos on Thursday because of the play off the bench of players such as Kulagin, Alec Peters and Vorontsevich, who showed that CSKA has the depth and the defensive chops to win even when its biggest star is out.