CSKA puts halt to Zalgiris streak
In a battle of long-time rivals, CSKA Moscow grabbed its seventh consecutive home win in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season by downing Zalgiris Kaunas 83-73 at Megasport Arena on Wednesday. CSKA improved to 15-4 and is guaranteed to continue holding first place alone in the standings through the end of this double-round wee. Meanwhile, Zalgiris dropped to 11-8 and saw its six-game winning streak come to an end. Mike James led the winners with 21 points. Toko Shengelia added 18, Darrun Hilliard 17, Johannes Voigtmann 11 and Nikola Milutinov 10. Milutinov made his a double-double, with 14 rebounds, while Nikita Kurbanov dished a career-high 7 assists for CSKA. Zalgiris got 16 points from Marius Grigonis, 14 from Thomas Walkup and 11 each from Nigel Hayes and Lukas Lekavicius. CSKA led 18-11 after 10 minutes and boosted its margin to 45-32 at halftime. Zalgiris managed to get within 60-57 early in the fourth quarter but James and Hilliard stepped up to make sure that CSKA cruised to yet another home win.
Hilliard got CSKA going with a couple of jumpers while Milutinov added a dunk and a layup for an 8-0 lead. Arturas Milaknis and Hayes rescued Zalgiris with consecutive three-pointers before Shengelia and Milutinov restored a 12-6 CSKA edge. Walkup followed a jumper with a triple but James singlehandedly kept CSKA in charge, 16-11. Semen Antonov hit a mid-range jumper to fix the score at 18-11 after 10 minutes. Voigtmann dunked early in the second quarter and added a running hook and a bomb from downtown for a double-digit CSKA lead, 25-14. Joffrey Lauvergne stepped up with a tip-in and Lekavicius downed a jumper but Hilliard and Kurbanov kept CSKA ahead 29-18. James struck from downtown and Shengelia followed a second-chance layup with a three-pointer. Walkup hit a mid-range shot and Grigonis had 8 quick points, including a layup-plus-foul that kept Zalgiris within 39-30. Hilliard sank back-to-back triples, however, to boost CSKA's margin to 45-32 at halftime. Shengelia re-emerged with a put-back layup and a dunk soon after the break. James bettered Milaknis's close basket with a corner triple that Walkup answered from downtown. He then added a layup to give Zalgiris hope at 52-39. Grigonis buried his second three-pointer, getting help from Augustine Rubit and Rokas Jokubaitis to bring the guests even closer, 58-50. Voigtmann sank a six-meter jumper but Lekavicius kept Zalgiris within 60-52 after 30 minutes. Hayes struck from beyond the arc early in the fourth quarter and Lekavicius added a floater to get Zalgiris within 60-57. CSKA did not panic, though, as Hilliard and James filled an 8-0 run that boosted its lead to 68-57. Lauvergne and Milutinov traded dunks before Grigonis downed his third triple for a 70-62 score with 5 minutes left. James scored in penetration, joining forces with Shengelia and Janis Strelnieks to seal the outcome, 80-67, as Zalgiris did not recover in the final 2 minutes.
Milutinov, who received his MVP for December award before the game, registered his seventh double-double of the season, finishing the game with 10 points and 14 rebounds. He tied his own CSKA club record by pulling down 8 rebounds in the first quarter. Milutinov finished the game with a team-best PIR of 22.
After Lekavicius hit a floater to get Zalgiris within 60-57 early in the fourth quarter, Hilliard matched that at the other end, igniting an 8-0 run highlighted by James's step-back three-pointer. Hilliard capped it with a three-point play that restored a 68-57 CSKA lead, enough to control the game in the final 6 minutes.
Rebounds made the difference in this game. CSKA outrebounded Zalgiris by 44-26. CSKA pulled down as many as 15 offensive rebounds, with Milutinov grabbing 5 of those. Zalgiris had 18 defensive rebounds but just 8 on the offensive end.
Did you know?
CSKA remains undefeated against Zalgiris at home in EuroLeague action, 14 wins in as many home games. Zalgiris beat CSKA in Moscow in the former Soviet Union League and in the VTB League, but never in Europe's marquee competition. Zalgiris managed to force overtime in its previous two visits, losing 99-97 in the 2018-19 campaign and 85-82 last season on a last-second shot by James.
Both teams return to EuroLeague action on Friday, January 15. In a battle in the upper part of the standings, CSKA welcomes FC Barcelona and its former star Cory Higgins to the Russian capital. At the same time, Zalgiris visits a Zenit St Petersburg team that features three of its former players: Arturas Gudaitis, Kevin Pangos and KC Rivers.
Wednesday, January 13, 2021