Heroics by Higgins lift CSKA at Efes
In an intense showdown that went down to the final seconds, CSKA Moscow bounced back from a tough home loss by downing Anadolu Efes Istanbul 78-80 on the road before 14,000 fans at Sinan Erdem Dome on Tuesday. CSKA improved to 21-6 to remain second in the regular season standings, while Efes dropped to 17-10. The win assured CSKA a third-place finish or better at the end of this phase. Cory Higgins led CSKA with 19 points, including the game-winning layup with 1.9 seconds left. Kyle Hines added 15 points on 7-of-7 two-point shooting while Will Clyburn scored 10 for CSKA. Bryant Dunston led Efes with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Krunoslav Simon added 13 points while Shane Larkin had 11 for the hosts, who led 20-15 after 10 minutes and kept a 30-27 margin midway through the second quarter. An 1-13 run gave CSKA a 31-40 advantage near halftime. The guests did not trail after that, but free throws by Simon tied the game with 5.6 seconds left, before Higgins had the final word on a strong driving basket to finish the drama.
Efes found its big men early, as Adrien Moerman and Dunston filled 7-0 opening run that forced a CSKA timeout. Sergio Rodriguez and Higgins rescued the guests with back-to-back jumpers and Othello Hunter added a jump hook. Simon and an unstoppable Moerman restored an 11-6 Efes margin before Rodriguez had a three-point play that Simon matched with a bomb from downtown. Joel Bolomboy and Nikita Kurbanov found their first points in a 0-6 run that Hines capped with a layup for a 14-15 CSKA edge. Efes continued scoring in the paint, however, as Dunston and Brock Motum gave the hosts a 20-15 edge after 10 minutes. Higgins and Ivan Ukhov each downed a jumper early in the second quarter and Hines added a couple of layups. Dunston singlehandedly kept Efes ahead, though, at 25-23. Rodrigue Beaubois struck from beyond the arc and Dunston dunked again but CSKA raised its aggresiveness as Clyburn, Alec Peter and Hines combined for 12 points in an 1-13 run that put the guests fully in charge, 31-40. A layup by Dunston and a put-back slam by Tibor Pleiss fixed the halftime score at 35-40. Motum scored down low soon after the break before a three-pointer by Simon got Efes within 40-42. Bolomboy dunked and had a huge block on Pleiss, and got help from Hines and Higgins to make it a double-digit game, 43-51. Vasilije Micic and James Anderson each struck from downtown and Dunston dunked again to bring Efes a bit closer, 48-53. CSKA found a go-to guy in Higgins, who downed a jumper and fed Nando De Colo for a fastbreak layup, although three-pointers by Anderson and Shane Larkin kept Efes within 58-61, after 30 minutes. Ukhov and Anderson traded baskets early in the fourth quarter, setting up a three-pointer by Larkin that tied it at 63-63. Clyburn and De Colo fueled a 0-9 run highlighted by Peters' three-pointer, good for a 63-72 CSKA lead. Motum and Larkin hit a triple apiece, then a put-back layup by Motum brought Efes within 71-74 with 4 minutes left. Micic and Higgins exchanged baskets, setting the stage for Simon's three-pointer to forge another tie, 76-76. with 59.1 seconds left. Higgins swished a jumper and CSKA fouled Simon, who made both attempts at 78-78 with 5.6 seconds left. After a timeout, Higgins inbounded and got the ball back to drive strong to the basket and down the go-ahead layup with 1.9 seconds left. Efes could not get a shot up in the game's final possession, sending the win back to Moscow.
Even when Higgins made the difference with his game-winning shot, Hines was a solid threat in the paint all game long. He finished the game with 15 points, tying his season high, on 7-of-7 two-point shooting. He added 3 rebounds, an assist, a steal, 3 blocks and 3 fouls drawn for a PIR of 21, which also matched his season high.
Higgins made the difference in the final minute. First, he beat the shot clock buzzer with a catch-and-shoot jumper that put CSKA in charge, 76-78. When Efes tied the game, Higgins received a hand-off pass and had the determination to drive to the basket and score. His clutch efforts gave CSKA a tough road win.
CSKA was solid in all the hustle stats, finishing the game with 11 offensive rebounds, 6 steals and 7 blocks. The block total tied its season high against Olympiacos Piraeus earlier this month. CSKA also hit an impressive 31 of 44 two-point shots (70.5%) while limiting Efes to just 18 of 37 inside the arc (48.6%).
Did you notice?
A moment of silence was kept to honor long-time Panathinaikos Athens president Thanasis Giannakopoulos, who died on Tuesday at the age of 88. Thanasis Giannakopoulos was the Panathinaikos president from 2002 to 2012 and took the club to the European elite level along with his brother Pavlos, who passed away in 2018. .
Both teams are right back at it in 48 hours for Round 28 showdowns on Thursday. CSKA hosts Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul in a rematch of the 2016 championship game. Efes visits Buducnost VOLI Podgorica for the club's first official game on Montenegrin soil since 1999.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019