By Eurohoops team / email@example.com
Nikola Mirotic drained a tough stepback jumper nearly at the buzzer to hand Barcelona an 82 – 80 win over CSKA Moscow on the road. It was the first time the Blaugrana beat the “Army Men” in Russia since November 2012.
“Not yet. I always say it is all about my teammates, it is all about the coaching staff: they made a great play for me. I received the ball down there and just tried to make the best move. It was a good basket, but most important is that we won the game. I am very happy,” Mirotic said when asked if he saw his game-winner. He finished with game-highs 23 points and eight rebounds to push his team to a revenge-win after the first-leg blowout loss to CSKA at home.
Thanks to Mirotic’s bucket, Barcelona captured its seventh win in a row and improved to 20 – 6. They mathematically clinched a playoff spot.
Mike James had hit a 3-pointer for the corner with eight seconds remaining in the previous play to tie the score for CSKA. The hosts suffered their ninth loss in the regular season and dropped to 17 – 9.
Daniel Hackett dropped a team-high 17 points while Darrun Hilliard finished with 14 points for CSKA. James had 12.
The two teams traded blows in the second half after CSKA turning the tables 25 – 19 following the first quarter to reach the break up 40 – 37. Barcelona recovered thanks to former two-time champion with CSKA Cory Higgins (17 points) plus the perhaps unexpected 3-point spree of Brandon Davies. The latter shot 4/4 from beyond the arc while coming into the game with 1/8 in his EuroLeague career, finishing with 16 points apart from his seven rebounds.
“It was a huge win for us, especially after what they did to us in Barcelona: they embarrassed us,” Higgins said on the extra motivation he and his teammates carried coming into the game.
The devil was in the details
It was a match that any of the two teams could win and CSKA coach Dimitris Itoudis elaborated on the small details that gave Barcelona some advantages in certain moments.
“Congratulations to Barcelona. It was a completely different game, a close game. Small details decided the game throughout the whole game,” Itoudis said in the post-game presser. “If we analyze it from the beginning until the end, we found the way, although they had a great start, but we established ourselves defensively and offensively. We led the game by 9, 40-31, but unfortunately, they scored 2 three-pointers, one of them at the first-half buzzer and in another pick-and-pop which was not contested. That is one small detail, for instance, that cost us 3 points. It is very different to go to the locker room with plus-9 than doing it with plus-3. They came out stronger than us in the third quarter, but we were there – we had the lead, they took it, it was a very tight game. It came to the end like we all see with us tying the game with a big shot and them hitting that last shot. Congratulations to them. Thank you to our fans, it was a great atmosphere, but unfortunately, we were not able to give them the win.”
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball