The game between CSKA Moscow and Zalgiris Kaunas had everything you can expect from a great Turkish Airlines EuroLeague showdown. Two great rivals leaving everything on the floor, no big leads during the game, a great team effort by Zalgiris which allowed the Lithuanian champion to force overtime without taking any lead in the second half. And in the end, a superstar taking over to win the game at the buzzer.
Mike James did much more than that, though. Not only did he make the game-winning shot, but he had one of the most outstanding finishes that any player has ever had in EuroLeague history by scoring 10 points in the game's final 63 seconds to lead CSKA to an incredible win.
Jock Landale hit free throws to put Zalgiris ahead, 75-76, with 1:15 left in overtime. James got the inbound pass, played one-on-one against Thomas Walkup and banked in a driving layup with 1:03 remaining. When Lukas Lekavicius answered with a jumper already in the final minute, James needed just 3 seconds to get the ball, race downcourt, penetrate in traffic, draw a foul and get the bucket. He made the additional free throw, giving CSKA an 80-78 lead with 51.8 seconds remaining.
Zach LeDay drew a foul and made free throws and CSKA looked for James again. He got the ball back with 6 seconds on the shot clock and shot a jumper over LeDay which got a lucky roll, bouncing several times around the rim before it went in. Zalgiris answered with 2 points via goaltending: Joel Bolomboy blocked Walkup's shot on its way down.
The game was tied at 82-82 and CSKA inbounded the ball off a timeout with 4.7 seconds left. James took a similar shot to the one he used to beat Anadolu Efes Istanbul last season when he was wearing AX Armani Exchange Milan's jersey.
"We give the ball to Mike and we try to clear you the right path," CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis said in the previous timeout. "I think the triple before worked," he added, probably referring to the last shot in regulation, which James missed.
The rest is history; James got the ball from Daniel Hackett, dribbled in front of Nigel Hayes, stepped back and buried one of the shots that will be remembered when you talk about the 2019-20 EuroLeague season. He did it against Efes last season and did it again against Zalgiris.
"I played really bad for about four quarters, but luckily we had overtime and he just sat me down and told me to just keep being aggressive," James said after the game. "And I was, and it worked out. [On the game-winner,] I wanted to get a good shot off, get one of the shots I normally shoot, and it went in."