Hilliard, James lead CSKA to road win
The reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion, CSKA Moscow, started its title defense in style on Friday by thrashing Valencia Basket 71-96 on the road. It was a battle of continental champions, as Valencia had lifted the 7DAYS EuroCup trophy last season. Darrun Hilliard led the winners with 22 points. Mike James added 20, while Andrey Vorontsevich had 13 and Will Clyburn 12 for CSKA. Mike Tobey led Valencia with 14 points. Bojan Dubljevic and Brock Motum each had 12 for the hosts. James and Vorontsevich shined early and a big basket by Clyburn gave CSKA a 17-24 lead after 10 minutes. A three-pointer by Brock Motum brought Valencia within 29-32, but Hilliard and Ron Baker helped CSKA restore a 39-50 margin at halftime. Hilliard and James took over after that break as CSKA boosted its margin to 54-76 at the end of the third quarter and never looked back.
Nikita Kurbanov got CSKA going with a layup, then James and Hilliard each struck from downtown for a 1-8 lead. James kept pacing the guests with a three-point play but Tobey kept Valencia within 4-11. Hilliard banked in a jumper, Tobey and Kyle Hines traded dunks, and Vorontsevich's layup made it a double-digit game, 7-17. Dubljevic had four points in a 6-0 Valencia run, getting help from Louis Labeyrie and Joan Sastre to bring the hosts within 17-20. A close basket by Vorontsevich and a coast-to-coast ramble by Clyburn restored a 17-24 CSKA lead after 10 minutes. Dubljevic kept pacing Valencia early in the second quarter but Vorontsevich hit his second triple for a 21-27 score. Vanja Marinkovic took over with a layup-plus-free throw but Hilliard singlehandedly boosted CSKA's lead to 25-32. Motum answered from beyond the arc before James stepped up with 6 quick points and Baker hit a triple for a 32-41 CSKA margin. Dubljevic got Valencia within 39-44 but three-pointers within a few seconds by Hilliard and Baker, whose shot fell on the buzzer, gave the guests a 39-50 margin at halftime. Hilliard and Vorontsevich each struck from downtown after the break to make it a 15-point game, 43-58. Valencia found a new go-to guy in Motum but Hines and James kept CSKA way ahead, 47-66. Another three-pointer by Hilliard broke the game open, 47-69. Motum kept pushing the hosts but he didn't find much help. Meanwhile, three-pointers by Daniel Hackett and Clyburn gave the guests a 54-76 margin after 30 minutes. A one-handed alley-oop dunk by Joel Bolomboy sealed the outcome, 54-78, early in the fourth quarter as Valencia kept trying but CSKA kept full control until the final buzzer.
James picked it up where he left off last season, proving he can score in many ways and being completely unstoppable at times. He needed less than 20 minutes to score 20 points on 6-of-6 two-point shots and 1-of-1 three-point shots. James only missed from the free throw line (5-of-9) but added 2 rebounds, 5 assists and 6 fouls drawn for a stellar PIR of 28.
Valencia managed to get within 39-44 late in the first half. Hilliard hit a three-pointer with 4.5 seconds left, then Baker got an inbound steal and fired from the corner at the halftime buzzer. All of a sudden, CSKA led 39-50 and gained momentum for the remainder of the game.
Three-point shots made the difference in this game. CSKA hit 17-of-31 shots from beyond the arc (54.8%). Those 17 three-pointers made are one shy of CSKA's club record, 18, set twice against Anadolu Efes Istanbul, in 2008 and 2018. Valencia only hit 5-of-21 shots from downtown (23.8%).
Did you notice?
It was CSKA's first-ever win in Valencia. CSKA had registered two losses in its previous visits to La Fonteta: 82-57 on November 3, 2010 and 103-99 in overtime on February 8, 2018. Another arena conquered by the Russian powerhouse.
Both teams return to EuroLeague action next week. On Thursday, October 10, CSKA hosts FC Bayern Munich at 19:00 CET. A day later, on Friday, October 11, Valencia visits Olympiacos Piraeus at 20:30 CET.
Friday, October 4, 2019