CSKA tops Valencia to end slide
CSKA Moscow snapped a two-game losing streak by downing Valencia Basket 84-75 at Megasport Arena in the Russian capital on Thursday. The hosts built a double-digit lead in the second quarter boosted by Mike James, who had 15 points over that period, and resisted several comeback attempts by Valencia. Key three-point shots at the end of the third quarter and early in the fourth gave CSKA a definitive advantage that Will Clyburn confirmed in crunch time. The hosts improved their record to 3-3, while Valencia dropped to 3-2. James led CSKA with 17 points and 5 assists, followed by Clyburn, Darrun Hilliard, Johannes Voigtmann and Tornike Shengelia, who scored 15, 12, 11, and 10 respectively. Nikola Kalinic tallied 15 without missing a two-point attempt and Louis Labeyrie had 10 in defeat.
Valencia opened fire with a three by Labeyrie, but Shengelia was very active in the paint and responded quickly to score twice and give the hosts their first lead at 6-5. Neither team managed to find its offensive rhythm and even though CSKA was dominating the boards at that moment, Valencia took an 8-10 advantage after Sam Van Rossom hit a contested three. Kalinic and Derrick Williams combined later to extend the gap to 13-16, but a floater by Janis Strelnieks and a pair of free throws by Clyburn helped CSKA close the first quarter ahead 17-16. The streak didn’t end here for the hosts, as Semen Antonov and James struck from downtown and Voigtmann finished a fastbreak with a three-point play to build a 26-16 edge early in the second quarter. Valencia stopped it with a timeout and found an unexpected help from Jaime Pradilla, who scored 7 points, including a corner three, in a 0-11 run that brought the visitors within 28-27. Klemen Prepelic tied it from behind the arc, but Valencia couldn’t go further as James decided it was time for him to take charge. He erupted with 8 points, including a long three and a basket-plus-foul, in an 11-3 spurt that allowed CSKA to head the locker room leading 44-35.
Daniel Hackett extended the margin to double digits, 47-35, right after the break, but Bojan Dubljevic responded with 5 points in a row to keep CSKA in sight. Darrun Hilliard and Labeyrie traded baskets after that to make it 53-47 midway through the third quarter. Vives trimmed the deficit to 55-50 with an open three and that short difference remained steady for a while until Prepelic showed up with a jumper and Mike Tobey tapped in an offensive rebound to make it 59-58. A three-pointer by Voigtmann protected CSKA’s edge at the end of the third quarter, 62-58. Back-to-back triples by Hackett and Voigtmann gave some calm to the hosts early in the fourth and another bomb by Clyburn restored a double-digit home lead, 71-60. Kalinic came to the rescue with 5 consecutive points, but Nikola Milutinov, Clyburn and Voigtmann combined to establish a 77-67 margin for CSKA with 3 minutes remaining. With its back to the wall, Valencia did its best to keep its chances alive, pressing full-court and taking advantage of the free-throw line to add some points. As such, the visitors entered the last minute trailing 79-71, but a big three by Clyburn closed the doors and allowed the hosts to celebrate their third win of the season.
Valencia built short leads several times in the beginning, going 13-16 after nine minutes. A 15-0 run between the first and the second quarters turned the game upside down and allowed CSKA to take the reins. And when the visitors got within 59-58 at the end of the third, 4 consecutive three-pointers sparked a big 12-2 run that ended up suffocating Valencia.
Not only did CSKA manage to bounce back from a disappointing game last week, but so did Mike James did. The guard was held to just 9 points in Belgrade - the first time this season he didn’t score in double figures. But James showed up when needed as he scored 15 points in the second quarter off the bench to heat his team up with several three-point plays.
Taking care of the ball pays off
CSKA Moscow averaged more than 16 turnovers per night before this game, which partially explained its losing record after five games. But, on this night, the hosts took care of the ball pretty well and committed just 6 turnovers. They also had 6 steals and 17 assists to the joy of their head coach.
In Round 7 next week, CSKA Moscow will travel to Greece to face Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Friday, November 6. Valencia returns home to host AX Armani Exchange Milan the same day.
Thursday, October 29, 2020