Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf is not only one of the most popular players in the FIBA Europe League (he is number 1 in voting for the All-Star Day), he is also one of the most lethal. His 14-point fourth quarter performance lifted Ural Great to a 100:94 win in the opening game of their play-off series with fellow Russian side BC Khimki.
Khimki welcomed back their own star from injury, guard Vassili Karassev and he was able to make an immediate impact on the game. He combined with Alexander Petrenko and Mikhail Soloviev to spark Khimiki to a 6:20 lead after just 5 minutes of the opening quarter.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Ruslan Avleev answered for the home side, but Khimki stayed ahead and led 22:29 at the end of the quarter.
Khimki retained their momentum in the 2nd quarter and although Ural Great fought back, they could not reduce the points defecit to less than 5. The visiting side also proved resilient after halftime as they survived a 17-point barrage from Ural Great duo Ksistof Lavrinovic and Zakhar Pashutin to take a 70:72 lead into the final 10 minutes.
Just as his coaching staff had no doubt hoped, Rauf was the game's deciding factor as he hit all of his shots in the 4th quarter. Ural Great were energised by his performance and they not only came back but roared into a 9-point lead. Khimki refused to give up and fought back to within 6, but Ural Great draw first blood in the series.
Karassev finished the game with 16 points, 9 assists and 5 steals before fouling out. He was well supported by Petrenko and Soloviev who scored 26 and 24 points respectively.
Abdul-Rauf finished as the game MVP with a season high 29 points. Ural Great will also be very encouraged by the performance of Avleev who had 18 points and 10 rebounds, statistically his best game yet in the FEL.