CSKA holds off Fenerbahce in thriller
CSKA Moscow outlasted Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul 70-68 on Thursday in a thrilling matchup between the teams with the best two records in the EuroLeague. Despite the loss, Fenerbahce remained atop the standings at 23-5, while CSKA climbed within 22-6. The game was a clash between the team with the best offense in the league, CSKA, and the best defense in the league, Fenerbahce, and it met expectations with two lead changes and four ties in the fourth quarter alone. Will Clyburn paced the winners with 16 points and 8 rebounds and Cory Higgins added 15 points; they combined for 14 of CSKA's 18 points in the fourth quarter. Nikola Kalinic posted 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, Ali Muhammed scored 15 points and Jan Vesely had 10 in defeat. Despite the loss, Fenerbahce salvaged the head-to-head tiebreaker versus CSKA with a layup at the buzzer.
Marko Guduric took charge early with the game's first 4 points. Sergio Rodriguez got CSKA going and the hosts soon took the lead at 7-6. Strong play from Nicolo Melli and Kalinic helped Fenerbahce surge ahead 9-16. After the TV timeout, both teams went to the bench with All-EuroLeague performers Nando De Colo of CSKA and Vesely of Fenerbahce coming in. Kyle Hines helped keep Fenerbahce scoreless for nearly 3 minutes as CSKA rallied within 2. Free throws by Vesely made it 14-18 after 10 minutes. Clyburn heated up early in the second quarter, but Fenerbahce's offense continued to produce and the visitors led 23-30 after a Muhammed triple. Kalinic later put Fenerbahce up 8, however, CSKA finished the second quarter on a 9-0 run – fueled in part by a Nicolo Melli unsportsmanlike foul and 5 points from De Colo – to lead 36-35 at the break. Rodriguez and Higgins hit back-to-back threes to open the second half as CSKA surged ahead. Kalinic led the Fenerbahce fight back and his jumper from the corner tied the game at 48-48. Hines buried a turnaround jumper to beat the shot clock and put CSKA up 52-48, which is how the third quarter ended. Fenerbahce held CSKA to just a single Clyburn bucket in the first half of the fourth quarter and tied it at 54-54 thanks to a pair of Muhammed threes. Kalinic gave Fenerbahce its first lead of the second half with a triple that made it 56-57, however, Nikita Kurbanov slammed home a missed Daniel Hackett layup for a narrow CSKA lead with 3 minutes remaining. It came down to the final minute. Melli tied the game at 65-65 from the line only to see Higgins drain a three from the corner with 25.6 seconds on the clock. After Muhammed split free throws, Clyburn made 2 from the line for a two-possession lead. Kostas Sloukas beat the buzzer with a reverse layup that salvaged the head-to-head tiebreaker for Fenerbahce against CSKA.
Wll Clyburn was CSKA's top player in more ways than one. He not only led the team in points and rebounds, but Clyburn kept CSKA in it when Fenerbahce threatened to pull away in the second quarter with three fantastic dunks. His hustle led to 3 offensive rebounds and 7 fouls drawn as Clyburn was a thorn in Fenerbahce's side all night.
The game hinged on Cory Higgins's three from the corner with 25.6 seconds remaining. The game was tie prior to that shot and by going ahead by 3, CSKA was able to use a tactical foul on Ali Muhammed to deny Fenerbahce a chance at tying it. When Muhammed split the free throws, Clyburn made it a two-possession game with 2 free throws.
Fenerbahce salvages tiebreaker
Despite the loss, Fenerbahce took a step towards locking up first place when Kostas Sloukas's layup at the buzzer limited the defeat to just 2 points. Because Fenerbahce won their first meeting 79-75, it took the head-to-head tiebreaker between the sides.
Both teams are on the road next week, though only one of them must travel. Fenerbahce visits AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan on Thursday. CSKA faces crosstown rival Khimki Moscow on Friday.
Thursday, March 21, 2019