Last week, a red light gave BC Khimki new life. This week, Nikola Mirotic, Rudy Fernandez and Real Madrid put on a light show of their own, roughing the Russians up with a Euroleague season-high 104 points on 60 percent shooting.
The 21-year-old Mirotic went 7-of-8 and had 17 of the 104 while ex-NBAer Fernandez matched his season high of 23 and split weekly MVP honors (Barcelona’s Ante Tomic matched Rudy’s 28 PIR) as Madrid won 104-81, keeping them in first place in the jumbled Group A with three weeks left in the regular season.
Khimki came into the Spanish capital winners of three straight, their most recent victory the result of a controversial game winner by former Clemson Tiger K.C. Rivers. With time running down against Fenerbahce Ulker last Thursday, Rivers grabbed an offensive rebound and put it up and in. The replay showed the ball was clearly on his fingertips with the clock at 0.00 seconds, but Rivers got it off just before the red light came on.
The refs went to the replay and confirmed it: Khimki had beaten Fenerbahce Ulker.
Seven days later, Khimki was more than a millisecond away from stifling the Euroleague’s leading offense.
A Chicago Bulls person of interest, Nikola Mirotic, had the cleanest game of his up-and-down season going 7-of-7 from inside the arc and missing his only three-point attempt for 17 points. He added eight rebounds and generally looked more comfortable than he had all year long—though the same could be said of Madrid’s entire team, as all 12 players saw the floor and 11 of 12 scored at least a pair of points.
The Bulls 2011 first-rounder came into this season having won two straight Rising Star Awards in the Euroleague (awarded to the best player 22 years of age or younger) and is a near lock to pick up another this May (Mirotic turns 22 this February).
Here are Mirotic’s past three seasons, with his current averages last (and age to start the season in parentheses):
2010-11 (19): 15 mpg, 6.6 ppg, 55 percent on twos, 39 percent on threes, 3.3 rpg, 8.2 PIR
2011-12 (20): 23 mpg, 12.5 ppg, 57 percent on twos, 44 percent on threes, 4.5 rpg, 14.6 PIR
2012-13 (21): 24 mpg, 12.4 pg, 61 percent on twos, 29 percent on threes, 5.1 rpg, 13.3 PIR
Though the Montenegrin’s star has risen rapidly since he started playing a real role in the Euroleague (he played only a single EL game with Madrid during the 1009-10 season), to simply rise might not cut it this season in the eyes of Madrileños or unaffiliated Euroleague junkies like myself.