Having lost two of its last three EuroLeague games, CSKA was keen to get back to winning ways against an injury-depleted Khimki team Thursday. “Red Army” was motivated and focused, played smart basketball and eventually cruised to a double-digit victory, its seventh all-time (the win-loss tally now stands at 7-2) in Europe’s premier club competition against the crosstown rival.
Early in the third quarter, CSKA rookie Alec Peters sank another three-pointer, his 27th of the season, to extend his scoring streak from long range to 10 games. The American power forward is the tournament’s best sharpshooter, connecting on 57.4 percent of his three-point shots. Bouncing back from last week’s defeat in Vitoria was a priority for CSKA and Dimitris Itoudis’ men stood up to the challenge.
“It was important for the entire team to get back on track from our last EuroLeague game. We didn’t do particularly well against Baskonia, credit to them. They killed us in the paint, and did a lot of good things to take us out of our rhythm. It was important for everyone to get back in that rhythm against Khimki, and the most important to get a win,” Peters told Talkbasket.net after the game.
On Thursday, Peters debuted against Khimki, the team he will face at least three more times this season as old rivals battle for supremacy in the VTB league and seek EuroLeague playoff berths. This time, Khimki was missing the tournament’s top gun Alexei Shved (broken finger) and power forward Anthony Gill (back injury), and had a tough time compensating for their absence.
“Obviously, it was unfortunate that they weren’t able to play, and I am sure that as we play them couple more times during the season, they’ll be back. They obviously help their team, and I think without them Khimki is still a great team, with great players,” said Peters.
Meanwhile, CSKA is finally able to put another rookie, Joel Bolomboy, on the floor following his late November clearance to play after obtaining Russian citizenship. The 24-year-old power forward/center is getting his minutes and his performance against Khimki was another proof that he can provide ample backup to more experienced fellow “bigs” in CSKA uniform.
“Absolutely, Joel is a big, strong, athletic kid, and he’s going to help us inside the paint both defensively and offensively. He’s able to play above the rim, he can guard post players down low, and he will definitely make an impact doing that for us this season,” Peters praised his teammate.
Over the course of the nine-month, 60+ game season, staying healthy is almost as important as winning. On Thursday, Itoudis could afford to distribute the minutes among all of his 12 players and to use his team’s leaders sparingly when the win was apparently in the bag. Peters played 18:27, a couple minutes less than his average this season. When asked whether he likes spending more time on the floor, he replied that his minutes didn’t concern him at all.
“I feel better when we win. The coach has the ultimate say on how much anybody plays, including me. I’m just going out there to help the team, spread the floor, make shots, be sound on defense and rebound the ball. How many minutes that is doesn’t matter – every time I step on the court, I try to do what’s expected of me,” he concluded.