Mirotic's game-winner sends Barcelona to playoffs
In the most thrilling of finishes, FC Barcelona grabbed its seventh consecutive win and punched its ticket to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs by downing CSKA Moscow 80-82 in the Russian capital on Thursday. Barcelona improved to 20-6 in the standings to clinch its spot in the playoffs while CSKA dropped to 17-9. Nikola Mirotic led the winners with 23 points, including the game-winning jumper with 0.4 seconds left. Cory Higgins added 17 and Brandon Davies had 16 for Barcelona. Daniel Hackett paced CSKA with 17 points, Darrun Hilliard added 14, Mike James 12, Nikita Kurbanov 11 and Kyle Hines 10. It was an exciting game all night. Barcelona led 72-76 with 2 minutes left, but a wild three-pointer by James tied the game, 80-80, with 5.4 seconds left. However, that was enough time for Mirotic to sink the game-winning shot with 0.4 seconds remaining.
Higgins got Barcelona going with the opening 4 points in a 0-7 run that Mirotic capped with a layup-plus-foul. Ron Baker and Hines stepped up for CSKA and James struck from downtown to tie the game, 7-7, after a 7-0 run. Victor Claver and Adam Hanga rescued Barcelona with back-to-back three-pointers. Hines took over with a driving layup, but Ante Tomic matched it with a put-back basket and Mirotic added a triple to boost the visitors' lead to 9-18. Kosta Koufos and Hilliard brought CSKA within 15-18 after 10 minutes. Joel Bolomboy hit an off-balance jumper early in the second quarter and Hackett added a fastbreak layup to give CSKA the lead, 19-18. Koufos capped a 13-0 run with an alley-oop slam, as Davies buried back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game again, 24-24. Hilliard answered from downtown, but Mirotic finished a three-chance Barcelona offense with a jump hook. Koufos scored down low and Janis Strelnieks hit a running floater that gave CSKA fresh air at 31-26. James found Hines for a layup and fed Bolomboy for a triple, but Kuric singlehandedly kept Barcelona within 36-31. Mirotic downed back-to-back three-pointers - the second one from way downtown at the halftime buzzer - to get the visitors even closer, 40-37, at the break.
Hanga scored in penetration and found Mirotic for a layup, but Hilliard and Bolomboy kept CSKA ahead, 44-41, after the game. Davies struck again from downtown and Higgins added a jumper to restore a 44-46 Barcelona lead. Hackett struck twice from beyond the arc, causing the visitors to call timeout at 50-46. Davies sank his fourth three-pointer, but Hackett took over with a scoop shot in the lane and Hines added a reverse layup for a 54-50 CSKA edge. Higgins had 4 points and 2 assists in a 0-9 run that Delaney capped with a corner triple for a 54-59 Barcelona lead. Kurbanov struck twice from downtown before Delaney and Higgins put the visitors up 60-63 through three quarters. Hilliard stepped up with a layup-plus-foul early in the fourth quarter and Kurbanov dunked off a steal for a 65-63 CSKA lead. Pierre Oriola sank a three-pointer and Higgins swished a jumper, but Kurbanov buried a triple and James added a driving layup and an outstanding put-back slam for a 72-68 CSKA lead. Barcelona did not panic, as Kuric downed a triple and Higgins added a jumper in an 0-8 run that caused the visitors to regain the lead, 72-76. Hackett downed a three-pointer, but Mirotic hit free throws for a 75-78 score with a minute left. Hilliard scored in penetration and Davies drew a foul with 8.0 seconds left. He made both attempts, but James buried an unbelievable three-pointer to tied the game at 80-80. However, he left just enough time for a final Barcelona possession and Mirotic sank a fadeaway from the baseline in the final second to lift Barcelona to victory.
Nikola Mirotic not only hit the game-winning shot, but was consistent throughout the game, finishing with 23 points on 4-of-6 two-point shooting, 3-of-5 on three-pointers and 6-of-6 on free throws. He added 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 fouls drawn for a PIR of 32.
It all came down to the final seconds... CSKA called timeout at 77-80 with 8.0 seconds left. Mike James got the ball and immediately buried a corner three-pointer to tie the game at 80-80 with 5.4 seconds remaining. Barcelona called its remaining timeout and put the ball in the hands of Nikola Mirotic, who buried a one-legged turnaround jumper to win the game with 0.4 seconds to go.
Brandon Davies was the X-factor, statistically speaking, in this game. In 95 EuroLeague career games, Davies had made just 1 of 8 three-point shots - against Zenit St Petersburg earlier this season. He buried 4 of them in this game without a miss, breaking CSKA's game plan and allowing Barcelona to escape with a win.
Did you notice?
It was Cory Higgins's first game in Megasport Arena since leaving CSKA last summer. Higgins helped CSKA to four Final Four appearances and EuroLeague titles in 2016 and 2019. He lived up to the challenge, getting 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and 8 fouls drawn for a PIR of 20.
Both teams return to Turkish Airlines EuroLeague action early next week. CSKA takes on Zenit St Petersburg in an all-Russian showdown on Tuesday, March 3. Barcelona visits ALBA Berlin on Wednesday, March 4.
Thursday, February 27, 2020