CSKA Moscow has two very different point guards this season. One is nicknamed "Iceman" because of his cool way of playing basketball: always even-tempered, without showing his emotions, focused on the game, making the most out of his huge basketball IQ. The other one is just unstoppable when he catches fire, and it that happens, he can hit one shot after another.
Mike James and Janis Strelnieks made the difference for CSKA in its 88-70 victory against Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, a battle between teams that have been to each of the last five Final Fours. The duo combined for 54 points – as compared to 70 total for Fenerbahce – and had a red-hot moment that allowed CSKA first to surge ahead and then keep a safe margin for good.
Even when CSKA led most of the way, Fenerbahce managed to get within 52-46 midway through the third quarter. That is was when Strelnieks found plenty of answers for CSKA with a couple of three-pointers and a wild basket-plus-free throw. He had previously hit a shot from downtown earlier in the quarter, and his 12 points in 4 minutes allowed CSKA to get a big margin, 64-49, after 30 minutes.
Eventually Strelnieks cooled off, but that is when James caught fire, burying 5 three-point shots in 7 minutes. His 15 fourth-quarter points allowed CSKA to stay way out of Fenerbahce's reach.
When the dust settled, Strelnieks needed just 24 minutes off the bench to score 23 points on 4-of-6 two-point, 4-of-5 three-point and 3-of-3 free throw shooting. He added 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 fouls drawn for a PIR of 29, a new career-high. He previously had a PIR of 28 for Brose Baskets Bamberg against Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv on February 2, 2017.
James also set a new career-high PIR, with 38. That tied the sixth-best mark for a CSKA player in EuroLeague history: David Andersen leads the table with a PIR of 45 against Opel Skyliners on February 9, 2005. James's previous career high was a PIR of 37 against Real Madrid, playing for AX Armani Exchange Milan, on March 20, 2019.
James and Strelnieks combined for 10 three-point shots. It was a game of Ice and Fire for CSKA, in which its two very different point guards made the Russian powerhouse invincible.