For the second consecutive round, CSKA Moscow played its home game at Sports Palace Yantarny in Kaliningrad, in front of a noisy, enthusiastic crowd. And now the arena will be remembered forever for hosting one of the best games in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague's recent history: a battle of two powerhouses, CSKA and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, that had everything you look for in a great sports event - drama, action, outstanding plays, unforgottable individual performances and loads of intensity.
When the dust settled after 45 minutes of thrilling ups and downs, Panathinaikos was the last team standing, downing CSKA 102-106. It took a career night and a new club record by Dinos Mitoglou, in just his second start of the season, and another legendary performance by superstar Nick Calathes, who came close to setting a new all-time EuroLeague record.
Indeed, Mitoglou and Calathes both made a slice of history. Mitoglou had never had a double-double in EuroLeague action, and his previous career-highs were 20 points, 10 rebounds and a PIR of 27. But he shattered those personal-best numbers in Kaliningrad with what could prove to be a career-defining performance, the first of many. He finished the game with 25 points, 16 rebounds and a PIR of 34.
By pulling down 16 rebounds, Mitoglou set a new Panathinaikos club record that had been standing for way more than a decade. The previous record was shared by Mike Batiste and Antonis Fotsis with 15 rebounds apiece – Batiste reached that mark against Benetton Treviso on March 1, 2006. Fotsis did it against Montepaschi Siena on January 15, 2003.
Calathes did everything right, controlling the game tempo, hitting the clutch shot to force overtime and finishing the game with 22 points, 6 rebounds, 17 assists and 9 fouls drawn for a PIR of 40. What’s more, he did all that in his 200th EuroLeague game, one he will never forget. His 17 assists are the third-best mark in competition history, and his second best effort. Stefan Jovic leads the all-time ranking with 19 assists playing for Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade against FC Bayern Munich on November 12, 2015. Calathes prebiously had 18 assists against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica on April 4, 2019.
No great win is conquered without a great opponent in front of you, however. And CSKA played its part in this classic, firstly by claiming 46 rebounds, a new season-high and the club's best mark in almost 15 years - it pulled down 55 against Panathinaikos in the 2005 Third Place Game. Mike James had 30 points and Daniel Hackett added 24, four shy of his own career high set a week ago. In fact, Hackett averaged 5.5 points in his opening 13 games but 26.0 in both games in Kaliningrad.
But more stats went the way of the visiting team. Panathinaikos dished 28 assists - a new season-high and the club's best mark in EuroLeague action since dishing 29 against Stelmet Zielona Gora on December 11, 2015. At the same time, it limited turnovers to just 8, in what happened to be the key to this outstanding game. CSKA's numbers were good - 19 points, 13 turnovers - but not good enough. Coach Rick Pitino is now 3-0 against CSKA.
Calathes had already hit one game-winning three-point shot against CSKA last season, and this time he did it again to force overtime, completing Panathinaikos's late rally – the Greens had trailed 87-81 with 2 minutes left in regulation. It took Panathinaikos 23 games to get its 10th win last season. In this campaign, however, the Greens have only needed 17 games to do so, and things are beginning to look very good for Coach Pitino's team.