Nando De Colo didn't need another big performance to prove his credentials as one of the best EuroLeague players of his generation. That has been clear for some time. However, the CSKA Moscow combo-guard served up a reminder on Wednesday that when he's on, De Colo can almost singlehandedly lift his team to victory.
De Colo seemed to have all the answers in CSKA's 77-84 road win at KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz Gasteiz that gave his team a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. He erupted for 14 of his season-high 28 points in the fourth quarter to lead CSKA. The point total marked the first time he had ever scored more than 20 in a playoff game and his performance index rating of 32 was also a personal playoff best.
Even so, there is putting up big numbers and there is carrying the team. The latter is what De Colo did in more ways than one late in Game 3. When Matt Janning buried back-to-back three-pointers to start the fourth quarter and give Baskonia its first lead of the night, Fernando Buesa Arena was bouncing and the end to CSKA's dynasty was in the air. De Colo was unfazed.
He tied the game with a three-pointer and after Vincent Poirier's put-back made it 67-65, De Colo tied the game again. He then stole the ball and scored to give CSKA the lead. In all, De Colo had CSKA's first 12 points of the quarter. In between, the normally cool De Colo lost it after Baskonia's ll-EuroLeague big man Toko Shengelia landed on him after contesting the latter's layup. The Frenchman raced back down the court to jaw with the much bigger Shengelia and collided with him. The result was a technical foul – De Colo's fourth personal, but it also fired up his teammates. Soon after, De Colo came out for a rest and even though the offense sputtered – scoring just one basket over the next 3 minutes, the defense denied Baskonia.
It did not appear that CSKA had full control of the game until De Colo drew Darrun Hilliard's fifth foul and sank a pair of free throws for a 71-79 lead with 2:13 remaining. It was a vintage performance from a former MVP on a night that saw the rest of CSKA's top scorers come in below their averages.
One of those players, Will Clyburn, who contributed 10 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals to the win, after the game summed up what he and his teammates think of the veteran guard: "That's De Colo. We see him every day. We never lost trust in him. We knew that he was going to bring it every night. Scoring. Defensively. Passing. That's him."
Indeed, Wednesday's performance was a reminder to anyone who thought CSKA was about to fall that with De Colo, this team can be as dangerous as anyone.