|Nenad Krstic spearheaded the attack of CSKA Moscow with 18 points and six rebounds|
CSKA Moscow head coach Ettore Messina said on Wednesday that his former club Real Madrid are, without a shred of doubt, the team that plays the best basketball in Europe.
A day later, CSKA defeated the Spanish champions 85-71 at home in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16, putting an end to their record-breaking 31-game winning streak across all competitions since the start of the season.
In actual fact, the last time Madrid tasted defeat was almost eight months ago, when they had lost to FC Barcelona in the penultimate game of the ACB play-off finals.
Real started the big clash on 4-of-16 shooting from the floor and the Moscow side jumped to a 23-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"CSKA played really hard and we weren't able to match their rhythm," Madrid head coach Pablo Laso said afterwards.
"They were up by 13 by the end of the first quarter and they appeared to maintain the lead throughout the whole game as we played catch-up."
During stretches, it appeared as if CSKA were out to beat Real on their own game, by establishing an ever-faster pace that the Spanish champions are capable of.
"It might have seemed that in the first half and in the final quarter we tried to escape in the fast-break, but it is not so," said CSKA guard Vitaly Fridzon.
"When the opponent allowed it, we looked to score in transition but we were not trying to out-run Real.
"If there was a high risk of a turnover, we reduced the pace and played half-court basketball, that is why we managed to score big points while not allowing Real to do the same."
|Sasha Kaun picked up five quick points late in the game to secure the CSKA lead|
Point guard Sergio Rodriguez, who finished with a game-high 19 points, provided Real with an extra punch from the bench as per his custom, and helped them climb their way back from a 37-18 deficit in the second quarter.
It took Real more than 10 minutes to finally reduce the gap to just three points, 58-55, on a Rudy Fernandez free-throw at the end of the third.
But shortly after the start of the final frame Sasha Kaun poured in five quick-fire points and Fridzon, with Vladimir Micov, sunk one three-pointer each to take CSKA's lead to 72-61 and take any potential drama out of the final five minutes.
"Real is in any case one of the strongest teams in Europe," Vorontsevich said.
"Their offence is stunning, they win in the Euroleague with an average of 92 points per game, that's a lot!"
The Russian international did not comment on his own performance, despite the fact his 14 points on Thursday were a personal season-high in the Euroleague.
"I'm happy than we ended this streak because everyone talked about Real as the best team right now," Krstic said.
"This is a huge step for us."