CSKA inches closer to playoffs
CSKA Moscow got back on the winning track by holding off fellow-Russian rival Zenit St Petersburg 86-78 on Tuesday to open the latest double-round week in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. CSKA improved to 18-9 and is on the verge of qualifying for the EuroLeague Playoffs, while Zenit remains at the bottom of the standings with a 7-20 mark. CSKA took the lead for good midway through the second quarter and opened an 11-point margin in the third, but Zenit kept coming back behind Austin Hollins. However, CSKA never allowed the visitors closer than 4 points before Mike James closed things out. James finished with 27 points. Johannes Voigtmann had 13 points and 6 rebounds, Darrun Hilliard scored 11 and Kyle Hines had 10 in the victory. Hollins led all scorers with a club-record 28 points and Tim Abromaitis added 13 in Zenit's losing effort.
Zenit drilled back-to-back-to-back threes to open the game -- one each from Dmitry Khvostov, Hollins and Will Thomas -- for a 2-11 lead. CSKA replied by not allowing another basket for almost 4 minutes, during its own 8-0 run, in which James assisted Voigtmann and Hilliard for three-pointers. Gustavo Ayon kept Zenit in front and Abromaitis hit a three to make it 14-20, but CSKA finished the quarter with a 9-1 run, capped by James's buzzer-beating triple to make it 23-21. Kosta Koufos extended the CSKA lead with 4 points, but Andrey Zubkov's basket-and-one helped tie the score at 29-29. CSKA opened a 37-31 lead after a triple apiece from Janis Strelnieks and Voigtmann, but Hollins scored 7 points, including another three-pointer, to cut the difference to 39-38. Hilliard and James knocked down back-to-back threes before Evgeny Voronov got Zenit within 46-43 at halftime. CSKA opened the second half with a 7-0 run behind James, then Voigtmann hit a triple as the lead of the hosts reached 56-45. Hollins and Colton Iverson kept Zenit in range, and Abromaitis capped a 0-7 run with a triple make it 62-58. James beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter with a three-pointer that made it 66-58, but the visitors were not going away. Alex Renfroe matched him early in the fourth quarter as Zenit pulled within 70-66. Hilliard answered with another downtown dagger before a pair of baskets from previously scoreless Joel Bolomboy opened a 77-66 CSKA breach midway through the quarter. Hollins scored 8 more points, including a pair of threes, but Strelnieks knocked down a corner triple to make it 82-74. A fastbreak layup from Hollins halved the deficit in the final minute, but a jumper from James with 20.2 seconds to go sealed the deal.
Despite winning by 8 points, CSKA still did not lose any of the four quarters. CSKA won the first quarter by a two-point margin, second quarter by 1 point and the third by 5 before tying the fourth quarter.
CSKA finished the game making 12 of 25 triples for 48%, which is better than how the hosts shot two-pointers (15-for-34, or 44.1%). Zenit was not far from doing the same, hitting 45.5% on three-pointers while making 46.3% of its twos.
Dominating fellow Russians
With this win CSKA swept both Zenit and Khimki Moscow Region this regular season. It is the seventh consecutive win for CSKA over a fellow Russian team, and the fifth different team that CSKA has swept in a season series this century, joining Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in the 2013-14 season, Nizhny Novgorod in the 2014-15 season, UNICS Kazan in the 2016-17 campaign and Khimki.
Improved scoring mark
EuroLeague rookie Austin Hollins set a new Zenit single-game scoring mark with 28 points. This is the third time this season Hollins scored 25 or more points, while no other Zenit player scored more than 21 in a game so far.
Both teams will be in action already on Thursday again. Zenit will host Zalgiris Kaunas, while CSKA travels to face Panathinaikos OPAP Athens.
Tuesday, March 3, 2020