Reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion CSKA Moscow lacked the sharpness it showed in the first three games of the new season when it travelled to ALBA Berlin on Friday night, but still used a tough, concentrated defensive effort to grab a big road victory.
CSKA turned the ball over 21 times but held ALBA to its worst offensive game of the season in winning 66-82 in the German capital.
The last time CSKA committed that many turnovers was in January 2017 against Zalgiris Kaunas. Dimitris Itoudis’ team came into the game with the second-fewest turnovers in the league at just 9.3 per game - with 10 in the opening game at Valencia Basket being the most thus far.
"ALBA was putting pressure on us, but that’s not all. We were sloppy in the beginning. We turned the ball over too much", Itoudis said after the game, which saw CSKA already commit 10 turnovers in the first 14 minutes.
The biggest reason CSKA was able to overcome its problem with turnovers was its defense. ALBA came into the game tied with CSKA as the highest-scoring team in the competition at 91.3 points per game, largely thanks to a second-best conversion rate of 43.6% on three-pointers. The German side had tallied at least 84 points in every game - but Itoudis’ men gave up just 8 points in the third quarter to deflate the host’s hopes.
"That speaks of how we were prepared to not give up transition points", the coach said.
"They’re a good offensive team and we held them to 66. We played a good defensive game overall, we just kind of locked in more in the third quarter", said Mike James, who paced CSKA with 22 points.
CSKA never let ALBA’s shooters find a rhythm in holding them to 29.2 percent from the outside and also allowing the hosts to connect on just 40.0% from two-point range.
In the end, Itoudis could come away very happy with his team’s defensive effort - which outweighed his men’s sloppiness with the ball and secured yet another victory.