Before the game I stopped by the Fener locker room and saw the famous basketball scout, executive and now GM Maurizio Gherardini. We met many times at many tournaments and during different camps, so my face should have been familiar as he smiled me back shaking my hand.
Warm up insights
CSKA Lacked Kulagin and just operated Clyburn.
Fener has come to Moscow without Nando De Colo.
Games history: CSKA 23 victories vs 11 Fenerbahce wins.
In the game day, life is boiling in the CSKA office. A lot of running and moving, old friends meeting and preparatory processes. Guests were met by all the highest welcoming standards. Old good Universal CSKA Sport Complex is still possible to invite the strongest rivals, to organize and hold a highest level EuroLeague match: they build optional VIP seats, technically everything is perfect, there is an entertainment program before and during the game and food courts satisfy every taste.
Mike James started the game in his manner and produced a very effective parachute shot from the dribble. Russians managed to run 7-2, but Sloukas fired from downtown and earned and one point in fast break. Fenerbahce took the lead for the moment 12-10, but it seemed it was the only time in the game.
It was noticeable that Vesely was out of ball, he did not try to play back to the basket, didn’t try to step around Hines and others.
He helped more screening and participated mainly in ball distribution. Sloukas hit a complicated/hard three and ran away in a rapid fastbreak, finishing by contact with the foul – and one mission complete. After all these bonuses, Fenerbahce managed to take the lead, 10-8 seemed to me the only time during the whole match.
Hines’ under rim decisions, blocks and points were very helpful for the “Red Army” in the first quarter.
On the other hand, CSKA opened the perimeter in defense for some moment and was punished immediately. Their rows were wide and Ahmet, Melih and Sloukas penetrated a lot with some result layups.
It was too hot for Maurizio Gherardini he often rubbed his forehead, but anyway radiated complete calm.
All the Turkish half-courts began with pick & roll plays, some of them were effective, but upon the whole CSKA was ready for that. Not a single mismatch Fener could use in their favor.
In the second quarter, Itoudis used full rotation option, while Obradovic kept Vladimir Stimac and Lauvergne on the bench for some reason.
The score gap kept around 6-7 points. Kosta Koufos was put into the game 3-4 times before he managed to adapt and scored two times from the paint in his trademark manner.
The motor for CSKA in the second quarter was Daniel Hackett, he dispersed and organized attacks in the absence of Mike James. Yet, it was still James who closed the first half 39-34 with his crazy long-distance bomb.
CSKA won the first-half rebound 24-12.
P.S. HALF time 1 ml RUB center court fan shot was very close.
CSKA used James to score points individually
Joker – Janis Strelnieks proved his CSKA signing, running the floor a lot, shooting fantastic long range 4/5, scoring 23 points overall, also made 3 assist and 3 rebounds.
Ali Muhammed took the ball, trying to feed his partners, who were far from being desired. Actually, he failed to orchestrate and all his partners acted promptly judging by a situation. Ali tried to run in and pass out, but CSKA had everywhere kept positions and Fener had no free shots. Ali couldn’t find himself along 16 minutes on court.
CSKA fired the rival off, the points gap turned to 12-14 points. Fenerbahce had no change to come closer. CSKA long-distance percentage increased greatly, especially by James unbelievable shots. His incredible step-back hits just killed Fener players psychologically.
Sloukas didn’t give up and nailed 3 more three-pointers. Itoudis defense looked smart and benefitted much that evening.
In the second half, Maurizio Gherardini disappeared from my sight, no matter how much I watched in his team bench direction.
Four minutes before the end of the game Zeljko Obradovic became sad and rested on the bench. The game was over, one more defeat in 8 start matches do not promise an easy play – off road. 88-70 match was not tough as expected.
P.S. HALF time 1 Million RUB center court Russian fan shot was very close.
My observations concerning James were filled with new notes. He is an athletic, strong combo guard shooting first, passing second/third. You still can not say he is selfish. James probably makes a lot of his own (not coach) decisions. He habitually runs into straight into his defender, surprisingly changing directions, stepping around collecting contact and fouls along the road, and very often the ball ends up in the ring. His steps (stepback) back are very smeared – steps from the spot, looks like travel almost all the time. His shots sometimes seem more than strange in technique execution. He has fast legs and defensively he manages to stay before the ball guy and makes his way through the screens. So far I don’t understand if I like James or not. One thing is clear, his actions bring positive result. Whether he can help the team at a crucial moment in the season remains a big question.