Two months to the day they would meet in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game, Anadolu Efes Istanbul welcomed CSKA Moscow for a showdown in Round 27 of the 2019 regular season. At the time, CSKA was chasing Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul for first place and Efes was in fourth and looking to clinch a playoff berth and eventually homecourt advantage for said playoffs. It was a pivotal game more many reasons, including that Fenerbahce and Real Madrid, the latter of which was tied with CSKA at 20-6, were facing teams from the foot of the standings.
CSKA wins on Higgins’s heroics
Cory Higgins shined with a layup with 1.9 seconds remaining to lift CSKA to a 78-80 road win before 14,000 fans at Sinan Erdem Dome. It capped a wild fourth quarter in which Efes tied the game three times – twice in the final minute on a three-pointer and later free throws by Krunoslav Simon. After Efes tied it the first time at 63-63, CSKA reeled off 9 straight points before Efes answered with a 10-2 push. Higgins led CSKA with 19 points, Kyle Hines added 15 points on 7-of-7 two-point shooting and Will Clyburn scored 10 for CSKA. Bryant Dunston led Efes with 19 points and 9 rebounds, Simon added 13 points and Shane Larkin had 11 in defeat.
The win guaranteed CSKA a top-three finish and Coach Itoudis’s men would win out to finish second with a 24-6 record and second place. CSKA then bested KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz in the playoffs and Real Madrid in the semis. Efes’s playoff spot was secured the day after this loss due to other results and a Round 28 victory over Buducnost VOLI Podgorica clinched homecourt advantage for what would eventually become a five-game playoff victory over FC Barcelona that sent Efes to the Final Four. There it rode the hot hand of Shane Larkin to dispose of Istanbul rival Fenerbahce in the semifinals.
The championship game
The next time these teams met would be in May with the title at stake. CSKA outlasted Efes 83-91 Four at Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. CSKA led for the majority of the game, but Efes kept the pressure on by closing within 4 twice in the fourth quarter. CSKA never lost its composure and was able to seal the win with late free throws. Will Clyburn and Cory Higgins netted 20 points apiece and Nando De Colo contributed 15 points to lead CSKA to glory. Shane Larkin made history for Efes with 29 points, which was the most in the championship game since the turn of the century.