CSKA Moscow held on for a tough 98-95 victory over crosstown rival Khimki Moscow Region on Tuesday night in the opener of their best-of-five Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs series at Megasport Arena in the Russian capital.
Khimki led for most of the first three quarters, but was held scoreless for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, while Leo Westermann and Othello Hunter led an 11-0 CSKA run to take the lead for good. Those two played big roles in the absences of Kyle Hines, who missed the game to injury, and Nando De Colo, who did not play in the second half. Sergio Rodriguez paced six CSKA scorers in double figures with a playoff career-high 22 points on 5-of-8 three-point shooting plus 5 assists. Hunter posted 18 points and 8 rebounds, Will Clyburn added 14 points and De Colo, Semen Antonov and Cory Higgins netted 10 points apiece. Alexey Shved led Khimki with 22 points and 6 assists, Egor Vialtsev followed with a career-high 21 points, Anthony Gill added 14, James Anderson 13 and Thomas Robinson 12.
Nikita Kurbanov scored the first basket of the playoffs for the hosts before Gill got Khimki on the board with a three-point play and a layup. Rodriguez hit a pair of threes for CSKA, the second of which tied the game at 10-10 through three minutes, but a two-handed slam by Gill and Stefan Markovic's offensive rebound that led to a Malcolm Thomas slam prompted a CSKA timeout with the visitors up 4. After the stop, Markovic nailed his second three of the night for a 10-17 Khimki lead. Even after a monster alley-oop from Hunter, Khimki remained in control with a triple by Vialtsev and a basket-plus-foul by Shved, which capped a 2-13 Khimki charge. Hunter drew fouls on consecutive possessions, which resulted in 2 free throws for him and a put-back basket by Clyburn to get CSKA within 18-25. The margin was back in double figures with Vialtsev's second triple. De Colo stepped up for CSKA, but another Vialtsev triple and an Anderson three on the buzzer made it 25-34 after 10 minutes. Despite having his first shot of the second quarter rejected by Robinson, De Colo hit his second for a three-pointer. However Shved matched him as Khimki remained in control. CSKA regained its composure with baskets by Clyburn, Higgins and Rodriguez to make it 35-39 midway through the second quarter. Rodriguez and Vialtsev traded threes, but Rodriguez drained another and Vitaly Fridzon split free throws to trim the gap to 44-46. Shved connected from downtown and Gill rattled in 3 points from the line as the visitors regained control. Marko Todorovic's layup gave Khimki a 46-54 halftime advantage.
CSKA scored the first two baskets of the second half through Clyburn and Hunter. A Clyburn put-back got CSKA within 2, but Gill's spin move and basket-plus-foul kept Khimki ahead. Free throws by Antonov again got CSKA within 2, but Shved responded from downtown for a 57-62 Khimki edge midway through the third quarter. Shved took a seat after committing his fourth foul and Antonov knocked down 2 more free throws before hitting a three-pointer that knotted the game at 64-64. After a Khimki timeout, Clyburn split free throws to give CSKA its first lead since the opening minutes. Robinson stepped up for the visitors with a three key buckets to push Khimki back ahead, 68-70. Westermann free throws – his first points of the game – tied the score, but Anderson hit a three and sank free throws to give Khimki a 72-75 lead at the end of the third quarter. Westermann hit a three on a broken play to tie the game and Khimki's mounting foul trouble saw Anderson called for his fourth foul, which resulted in Higgins free throws and a 77-75 CSKA lead. Hunter extended the CSKA run with 4 free throws, while Charles Jenkins became the first player to foul out. Westermann made it an 11-0 run with 2 more foul shots as CSKA kept Khimki scoreless for three minutes until a Vialtsev three-pointer made it 83-78. After a timeout, Shved hit a long jumper to make it a one-possession game. Free throws by Clyburn and Hunter extended the margin to 88-80, however Shved responded with a three-point play. Rodriguez's fifth three of the game gave CSKA an 8-point lead with three minutes remaining. Khimki, through Vialtsev free throws and a three by Shved, rallied to within 93-90 with 1:35 to play. Khimki would get no closer as Hunter scored a key basket inside with 24 seconds left and Westermann all but iced the game with free throws with 5.5 seconds to go.