It was a very special game for Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul superstar Nando De Colo on Friday when he faced CSKA Moscow for the first time since parting ways with his former club in 2019. In five successful seasons with CSKA, De Colo became arguably the most dominant player in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague during the second half of the 2010s, leading CSKA to five consecutive Final Four appearances and winning two EuroLeague titles, in 2016 – when he was MVP of the season and Final Four MVP – and in 2019.
De Colo is a CSKA legend and was greeted as such during a pre-game ceremony in which more than 4,000 fans at Megasport Arena gave him a standing ovation and CSKA president Andrei Vatutin presented him a big Russian doll of DeColo in a CSKA jersey.
Once the game started, however, De Colo put the star treatment behind and had one of those great performances that CSKA fans got used to seeing for five years, albeit in a different jersey this time.
De Colo led Fenerbahce to an 83-89 road win with an incredible all-around performance. He finished the game with 22 points on near-perfect shooting, hitting 6-of-6 two-point shots, 2-of-3 three-pointers and 4-of-4 free throws. His only miss came on the third-quarter buzzer and that shot went in and out.
"It is a great feeling to be back in Moscow. I couldn't be here last year and it is great just to come back where I spent five years of my life. Like I said, it is a great feeling and the win tonight is great for us," De Colo said after the game. "They have a really good team and are strong in the offensive rebound especially, and that is where we struggled a little bit in the first half, but we tried to control it at the end. We just stuck to the plan, played together and played strong."
He added 2 rebounds, a season-high 9 assists and collected 4 steals, matching his personal-best in 207 EuroLeague games. De Colo finished the game with a PIR of 38, matching the second-best of his career. He previously had a PIR of 38 with CSKA against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica on February 1, 2019.
"You guys – and I mean CSKA and Russian fans – you know better than anyone what Nando is capable of doing and the level he is capable of playing," Fenerbahce head coach Igor Kokoskov said after the game. "He played really well, but it was not just his points and numbers. He really had a good game and helped us follow the game plan, and helping everybody feel comfortable, being really a coach on the court and a general on the court."
It's a testament to how dominant CSKA has been for two decades that Friday's defeat marked just second time this century that it has lost two games in a row at home in Moscow. In the first such instance, visiting Real Madrid beat CSKA in late 2008 and Partizan Belgrade did the same in early 2009. Those games were separated by a road win, however, making this CSKA's first back-to-back home losses with no games in between.
Jan Vesely had another great performance against CSKA, finishing the game with 24 points by making 10 of 15 two-pointers and 4 of 4 free throws to go with 6 rebounds for a PIR of 32. With the game tied at 78-78, Vesely dunked, hit a pair of free throws, added a high-flying tip-in and went on to block Mike James's three-point shot, which allowed De Colo to strike from downtown at the other end and seal the outcome.
Fenerbahce is now on a six-game winning streak, its longest in two years, and hopes to keep it going in the upcoming double-round week, facing Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv at home and Khimki Moscow Region on the road.