Barcelona reigns in Moscow
In a heavyweight battle atop the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague standings, FC Barcelona completed a fruitful trip to Russia by downing CSKA Moscow 75-88 at Megasport Arena on Friday. Barcelona had defeated Khimki Moscow Region in the Russian capital earlier this week and has now improved to 14-6 in the standings to stand alone in second place. Top-ranked CSKA dropped to 15-5 after registering its second home loss this season. Cory Higgins, who won two EuroLeague titles with CSKA, led Barcelona with 25 points. Alex Abrines added 19 while Nick Calathes had 13 for the winners. Mike James led CSKA with 18 points. Nikola Milutinov added 15 while Toko Shengelia and Darrun Hilliard each had 10 for the hosts. Barcelona led 41-42 at halftime, extending its margin to 56-64 after 30 minutes and then again to 62-75 to seal the outcome.
Milutinov's jump-hook and Shengelia's put-back gave CSKA a 4-2 lead. Calathes and Higgins stepped up for Barcelona but Milutinov and James kept the hosts ahead, 10-8. Shengelia scored in penetration, James added his trademark side-step fallaway jumper and both Milutinov and Kurbanov dunked, but Abrines struck three times from downtown to keep Barcelona within 20-17. Shengelia answered from deep and Milutinov inside but Calathes brought the guests within 25-20 after 10 minutes. Joel Bolomboy and Janis Strelnieks restored a 31-22 CSKA lead early in the second quarter. Bolomboy soon had a huge alley-oop dunk and Semen Antonov a fastbreak slam for a double-digit CSKA lead, 35-24. James downed a triple but Abrines and Rolands Smits kept Barcelona within 38-28. Calathes fed Smits for a reverse alley-oop slam and Higgins sank a jumper to make CSKA call timeout at 38-32. Abrines and Higgins then combined for 8 points in an 0-10 run that Artem Pustovyi capped with a layup to put Barcelona ahead, 41-42, at halftime. Milutinov gave CSKA a lead again with a jumper soon after the break but Abrines and Calathes took it back at 43-46. Higgins dunked and Adam Hanga found his first points to boost Barcelona's lead to 44-53. Bolomboy answered from downtown, getting help from James and Johannes Voigtmann to give CSKA hope, but Kyle Kuric sank a triple and Higgins added a three-point play for a double-digit Barcelona lead, 51-62. Voigtmann and James brought CSKA a bit closer, 56-64, after 30 minutes. Hilliard stepped up with a tip-in early in the fourth quarter but Higgins matched it with a step-back jumper and Sergi Martinez added a three-point play that kept the guests way ahead, 58-69. Hilliard kept pacing CSKA with back-to-back baskets but Calathes struck twice from downtown to make the hosts call timeout at 62-75. Barcelona found a new go-to guy in Pierre Oriola but Hilliard and Milutinov kept CSKA alive, 70-79, with 3 minutes left. Higgins took over with a wild three-point play and Abrines sank his fifth triple to seal the outcome, 75-85, with 1:30 to play.
Higgins had another great game in the Russian capital, this time against his former team, and made the difference in this game. He finished with 25 points on 9-for-13 two-point and 7-of-7 free throws shooting, adding 6 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and 6 fouls drawn for a PIR of 28.
CSKA kept its option open for 35 minutes, when it was still within 62-69. Calathes stepped up with back-to-back three-pointers, forcing CSKA to call timeout at 62-75. Nothing changed after that, as Barcelona remained focused to cruised to a high-caliber win.
Barcelona simply shot the ball much better, especially from beyond the arc. The guests buried 12 of 27 three-point shots (44.4%) and limited CSKA to just 4-for-21 from downtown (19.1%). Barcelona has also shot the ball better from two-point range, making 52.9% to CSKA's 42%.
Did you know?
Calathes has won his third consecutive road game against CSKA. Calathes buried a game-winning three-point shot to give his former team, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, a 77-78 road win against CSKA on March 15, 2019. Calathes had 18 assists to lead Panathinaikos to a 102-104 overtime in Moscow on January 3, 2020. He forced overtime with a shot from downtown, too. Calathes won with Barcelona on Friday, as well, getting 13 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists.
Both teams return to Turkish Airlines EuroLeague action for Round 21 on Friday, January 22. CSKA hosts Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul in a rematch of the 2016 EuroLeague Championship Game. CSKA won 96-101 in overtime behind 22 points from Final Four MVP Nando De Colo, who now plays for Fenerbahce. On the same night, Barcelona visits Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade.
Friday, January 15, 2021