CSKA too strong for Barca in opener
CSKA Moscow overpowered FC Barcelona Lassa 95-75 in the opening game of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season at Megasport Arena in the Russian capital. Cory Higgins made 5 of 7 three-pointers en route to a game-high 18 points for the victors, Nando De Colo scored 17, Will Clyburn tallied 13 points and 9 rebounds and Sergio Rodriguez had 12 points. For CSKA, the win was its 13th straight at home. Kyle Kuric paced Barcelona with 15 points, Jaka Blazic scored 11, Thomas Heurtel dished 12 assists and Victor Claver collected 10 rebounds.
The game had a slow pace early, which Barcelona took advantage of to edge in front, but Sergio Rodriguez hit a three and Clyburn dunked on the break to put CSKA up 18-12. Kuric's first basket for Barcelona was a triple that narrowed the gap to 21-17 after 10 minutes. CSKA stepped up on the defensive end and turned steals and blocks into fast break points for a 10-0 run to start the second quarter. Higgins sandwiched a pair of threes around another from Kuric to make it 37-22. A Daniel Hackett jumper took the margin into the 20s (47-26) and the scoreboard showed 51-29 at the break. Blazic heated up for Barcelona, but could only trim the deficit to 17. Kuric and Chris Singleton kept the pressure on for Barcelona, which closed the gap to 69-58 through three quarters. Kevin Pangos scored first in the fourth for the visitors to make it a 9-point game, but CSKA did not feel the pressure and went on a 12-2 tear led by De Colo and Nikita Kurbanov to regain control. De Colo converted a three-point play to make it a 20-point game and though Blazic fueled a 0-8 Barcelona response, CSKA held serve the rest of the way.
Old reliable core
Continuity is always a bonus in the EuroLeague and CSKA's win attests to that. CSKA featured nine returning players in its roster and three newcomers, of which two – Alec Peters and Daniel Hackett – started, but the team found its best rhythm without them and the returnees accounted for 87 of CSKA's 95 points. Barcelona top four scorers were all new to the team and two of them – Kyle Kuric and Artem Pustovyi – were new to the EuroLeague. While Barcelona needed its players to find their chemistry, CSKA picked up where it left off last season.
Bench scoring is new trend
On this night, the numbers off the bench might not have told the story of the game, but they certainly help tell the story of the direction the league is headed in. CSKA's seven reserves combined for 59 points. Barcelona's scored 53. Likewise CSKA brought in 27 rebounds from the bench. EuroLeague teams are deeper than ever nowadays and it will become more and more common to see major production come from non starters. This game was just an example.
Sergio Rodriguez played in the 200th game of his EuroLeague career; he is the 31st player to do so. Andrey Vorontsevich blocked the 100th shot of his career and Cory Higgins also made it 100 career three-pointers. In a rarity, two of the top three-point shooters in the league, De Colo and Barcelona's Kevin Pangos, did not make a triple between them.
Both teams will be on the road in Round 2; CSKA will be Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv's guest for its home opener on Tuesday and Barcelona pays a visit to EuroLeague newcomer Herbalife Gran Canaria.
Thursday, October 11, 2018