By Eurohoops team/ email@example.com
Barcelona saw CSKA Moscow coming back from a 14-point deficit and then had to make a turnaround of their own from 10 points down before getting an 81 – 73 win over the Army Men in one of the most exciting games of the EuroLeague regular season so far.
It was a clash worthy of the caliber of both contenders with a rollercoaster second half, memorable moments from both sides and a major performance courtesy Nikola Mirotic. The Barca star scored 11 out of his team-high 21 points in the final period to lead the comeback effort from down 51 – 61 at the beginning of the quarter.
“Glory to God! It was an amazing game,” Mirotic said. He also had eight rebounds. “First, congrats to CSKA for an amazing performance. I am very proud of my team, of the players and the way we reacted after a not good beginning of the third quarter. But that was us, that was our spirit. We showed it today, that we are capable of the best and this is the way how we should play, especially in big games at home. Palau is always amazing – for us, it is our sixth player. Today, the crowd was huge and as always, we are very thankful.”
Brandon Davies added 14 points, including six straight in the last minutes. He made the layup for the 77 – 69 with 80 seconds to play and after dropped a hook shot for the 79 – 71 that left no room to CSKA for an answer.
Johannes Voigtmann delivered 21 points for CSKA, scoring 14 in the third period. The German big man hit three 3-pointers in a row to lift his team from down 41 – 27 at the beginning of the second half and drained the go-ahead triple that put CSKA up 43 – 45.
Tornike Shengelia (17 points) then took over with a pair of triples and Marius Grigonis made an impossible buzzer-beater from afar for the 51 – 60 to cap an outstanding stretch for his team. Barcelona fell behind 51 – 61 but their reaction was swift with an 11-0 run in three minutes and then with a 6 – 0 run that put them at the driver’s seat.
With the score 77 – 71, Voigtmann had a wide-open look to the basket but couldn’t connect for seventh time in the game. On the other end, Davies sealed Barca’s victory.
“We talked a little bit more in halftime, how we were supposed to play basketball,” CSKA coach Dimitris Itoudis said on his team’s return to the game in the second half. CSKA had 27 points in the third period after going to the locker with 38. “We came strong in the third quarter with concrete ideas on what to do defensively and offensively. We brought the game to +10 and then Barcelona put a lot of pressure on us. We could have handled this situation better.”
Kyle Kuric had 10 of his 13 points in the second period to help Barca go up 38 – 27 at the break. Rokas Jokubaitis added 11 points, stepping up with buckets an dimes when Nick Calathes (11 points and seven assists) exited the game with a calf injury early in the fourth period.
The fan factor
Barceona coach Sarunas Jasikevicius talked about how fans in Palau Blaugrana helped the team especially during the period in the game when CSKA looked to be in control.
“Palau Blaugrana is an arena with great acoustics and it is very loud,” Jasikevicius said. “When you are alone at Palau, you bounce the ball twice and you can hear it 80 times, imagine with 8,000 fans shouting a couple of times. It is important for us. Fans at Palau have a connection with the team and appreciate this team but we can do better. I know Catalans are different from Serbians and Greeks, even Lithuanians, but the most important thing is that our fans cheered for us when we were doing worse, and that is always a good sign from a fan base. That’s what is most important. When everything goes well, everyone is with you.”
Photo: EuroLeague Basketball