CSKA Moscow took a commanding 2-0 lead over crosstown rival Khimki Moscow Region in their best-of-five playoff series with an 89-84 win on Thursday night at Megasport Arena.
Sergio Rodriguez dominated for the shorthanded hosts with a career-high 26 points plus 10 assists. Khimki led at halftime and entered the fourth quarter trailing by 2, but Cory Higgins led an 11-2 CSKA run that gave it the game's first double-digit lead. Even though Khimki railed late through Anthony Gill, Higgins iced the game with free throws. Higgins finished with 19 points, Will Clyburn posted 16 points and 7 rebounds, Othello Hunter added 14 and 7 and Semen Antonov scored 12 for the Russian champs, who were without injured stars Nando De Colo and Kyle Hines. Gill tied his career high with 24 points for Khimki, but league-leading scorer Alexey Shved was held to a season-low 12 points on 2-of-9 three-point shooting. Shved also dished 7 assists. Stefan Markovic and James Anderson added 11 points apiece in defeat. The series moves to Khimki's home floor for Game 3 – and, if necessary, Game 4 – next week.
Higgins scored on the game's first possession for CSKA, but back-to-back threes by Gill and Charles Jenkins gave Khimki the lead. CSKA quickly tied the score through Hunter and the teams proceeded to trade shots. Antonov's triple gave CSKA a 13-10 edge after five minutes. After the TV timeout, Rodriguez buried a triple, but Egor Vialtsev matched him at the other end. Shved heated up with 5 quick points for the visitors to tie the game late in the quarter, but Rodriguez free throws gave him 9 first-quarter points and CSKA a 24-22 lead after 10 minutes. Shved buried his second three early in the second quarter, but baskets by Higgins and Clyburn put CSKA ahead by 5. Markovic stepped up for Khimki with a pair of layups to give the visitors a 30-31 lead midway through the second quarter. Three-pointers by Jenkins and James Anderson extended the margin to 5 points, but Higgins connected from downtown, too. A pair of deep threes by Anderson sandwiched Rodriguez's second triple and kept Khimki ahead. A tip-in by Hunter trimmed CSKA's deficit to 43-45 at the break.
Clyburn tied the game with the first basket of the second half, Antonov made a jumper, Hunter scored inside and Clyburn capped an 8-0 run that made it 51-45. Shved’s basket-plus foul and three-pointers by Gill and Vialtsev kept Khimki close. A three-point play by Gill tied the game at 57-57 midway through the third quarter. Antonov pushed CSKA back in front with a three-pointer and Clyburn banked in a shot for a 65-61 lead. Free throws by Gill and a three-point play by Markovic put Khimki on top, but Rodriguez ended the third quarter with a long three for a 68-66 CSKA edge. Markovic tied the game with the first basket of the fourth quarter, however Higgins scored the game's next 5 points. A three-point play by Clyburn and later a technical foul on Khimki Coach Bartzokas extended an 11-2 run that saw the CSKA lead soar to 79-70 with four and a half minutes remaining. Gill snapped the run with a put-back, but Rodriguez sank a three that gave CSKA its first double-digit lead, 84-74. Gill hit from downtown to bring Khimki within 6 and Markovic free throws made it 87-82 inside the final minute. Gill free throws with 8.1 seconds remaining drew Khimki within 3, but Higgins all but iced the game with a pair of free throws with 7 seconds to go.