Defense gives CSKA a 2-0 lead
CSKA Moscow moved within a victory of a record-breaking ninth consecutive Final Four when it downed visiting Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul by 78-67 on Friday in Game 2 of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs. With a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, CSKA will have at three chances, if needed, to reach its ninth consecutive Final Four, which no team has done before. Game 3 will be in Istanbul next Wednesday. Fenerbahce led 32-35 before CSKA used a 14-2 run to take a 50-42 halftime lead. Fenerbahce held CSKA without a field goal for the first 8 minutes of the third quarter to cut the difference to 52-51, but couldn't tie or go ahead, after which CSKA slowly pulled away. Daniel Hackett led the winners with 14 points and 9 assists. Tornike Shengelia added 11 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, while Nikia Kurbanov chipped in 10 points. Marko Guduric led Fenerbahce with 27 points while Nando De Colo and Danilo Barthel had 9 each.
Kyle O'Quinn stole to feed Danilo Barthel full-court and De Colo downed a nifty reverse for an early 2-4 Fenerbahce lead. Nikita Kurbanov's steal and fastbreak for CSKA saw De Colo leave the court with a nosebleed. Barthel and Hackett traded triples before Melih Mahmutoglu put Fenerbahce back in front, 8-9. Hackett and Guduric both struck from deep before Shengelia and Iffe Lundberg joined CSKA's scorers to make it 18-13. Guduric answered from the arc and Dyshawn Pierre dunked off a steal to tie. Janis Strelnieks broke the tie for CSKA from downtown, but Guduric's 3 free throws and layup put the visitors ahead, where they stayed, 23-25, after Tarik Biberovic hit the first quarter's last shot. CSKA's Johannes Voigtmann and Guduric exchanged threes to restart the second-quarter scoring after 2 minutes. Kurbanov's 4 points put CSKA up briefly, 30-28, before De Colo regained the lead for Fenerbache from the arc and Biberovic slammed at 30-33. Hackett and Kurbanov would both tie it with triples, then Hackett put CSKA ahead again on a technical free throw, 38-37. Will Clyburn hit his first points on consecutive triples to make it 46-37. Guduric broke the spell with a step-back corner three and drove for a layup as the half ended 50-42 in CSKA's favor.
After hot first-half shooting by both teams, only free throws fell through the first 5 minutes of the third quarter as Fenerbahce pulled within 52-46. Pierre scored a layup and Guduric hit 3 more free throws to cut the difference to 52-51. After 8 minutes without a field goal, CSKA got triples from Clyburn and Semen Antonov to make it 58-53. Lundberg added a basket but Lorenzo Brown matched it with a dunk to leave a 60-55 score after 30 minutes. Lundberg's step-back jumper opened the fourth quarter but Guduric matched him at the foul line and drove for a layup at 62-59. Ivan Ukhov lifted CSKA with a corner triple and Hackett added a jumper for a 67-59 lead with 5 minutes left. Barthel and De Colo shared 4 free throws around another triple by Ukhov for a 70-63 score. When Hackett hit a layup high off the glass, Fenerbahce needed a timeout at 72-63. Brown detonated another dunk to give Fenerbahce hope, but CSKA found Kurbanov in the corner for a double-digit 75-65 lead that put CSKA within one victory of yet another trip to the Final Four.
CSKA seeks new milestone
With Friday's victory and a 2-0 lead in the series, CSKA moved within one more win of reaching its ninth consecutive Final Four, which would break the EuroLeague record of eight in a row that the club has already accomplished twice. CSKA set that mark for the first time between 2003 and 2010 and tied it again between 2012 and 2019, before the streak was interrupted only by last season being canceled. Fenerbahce's challenge to prevent that is huge: No team has ever recovered from a 0-2 deficit to win a series.
After tying the fourth-highest total of three-pointers made in playoffs history with 14 in Game 1, CSKA did it again in Game 2, downing 14 of 34 attempts -- both being the club's playoff highs -- albeit at somewhat lower accuracy (41.2%) than in Game 1 (46.7%). Its 14 to 6 edge over Fenerbahce from downtown was more than enough to explain the final margin.
Russians to the rescue
CSKA was red-hot from deep in the first half as five players shared in 8 of 13 triples, including 3 of 3 by Daniel Hackett and 2 of 3 from Will Clyburn. After that, though, CSKA missed 8 consecutively before Clyburn downed another late in the third quarter. Janis Strelnieks would hit one of CSKA's last 5 long-range shots, early in the fourth quarter, but the rest came from the Russian quartet of Ivan Ukhov (2), Semen Antonov (1) and Nikita Kurbanov (1).
After committing 6 turnovers in the first quarter leading to 9 points by Fenerbahce, CSKA was disciplined enough to lose the ball just 4 times over the final 30 minutes. That included no turnovers at all in the second quarter, with CSKA seized the momentum that Fenerbache never quite took back.
The scene shifts to Istanbul for Game 3 of the series next Wednesday as Fenerbahce hosts CSKA in hopes that playing a home can help it avoid what would be the club's first sweep loss in a five-game series
Friday, April 23, 2021