The 28th meeting this century between CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid also delivers the 12th head-to-head clash between two elite forwards in the competition, CSKA's Will Clyburn and Real's Anthony Randolph.
Clyburn is still a reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion, All-EuroLeague forward and the last Final Four MVP. He made his EuroLeague debut with Darussafaka Istanbul in 2016-17 season, and after one season there he joined CSKA, which he helped lead to the 2019 EuroLeague title. Randolph came into the EuroLeague a season before Clyburn, in the 2015-16 campaign, and immediately earned All-EuroLeague honors by helping Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar reach a historic 2016 Final Four berth. The following summer he joined Real Madrid, which he helped to win the 2018 EuroLeague title.
Randolph enters this clash having raised his game in recent weeks. After a slow start to this season, Randolph has scored in double figures in four of his last five games. Since Round 6, he is averaging 12.4 points on stellar shooting, scoring 70.6% of his two-point attempts and making 52.4% from long range.
Both players have a matching number of rebounds over the last five games, and although Randolph has been considerably more accurate, Clyburn averages more points, 13.6, over that span. That figure, however, is actually below Clyburn's season average, as he ranks fifth in the league in scoring with 16.4 points per game having scored at least 12 point in each of the last nine games. Clyburn's better productivity also comes from averaging 28 minutes per game this season, compared to Randolph's 18 per night.
When we take a look at career numbers of these two EuroLeague champions, Randolph, with a season more under his belt, has played 138 games in the competition, compared to Clyburn's 119. CSKA's forward has career averages of 13.0 points and 5.7 rebounds compared to Randolph's 11.6 points and 4.7 boards. And despite playing in 19 fewer games over his career, including missing a majority of last season with a ACL injury, Clyburn still has more total rebounds and assists than Randolph. Clyburn has played 190 more minutes in his EuroLeague career than Randolph, too.
What could be perceived as unusual, however, is that Randolph – who plays either as a power forward or a center - has not only been a more accurate long-distance shooter, but has also taken 155 more three-point shots than Clyburn.
The story does get a bit different in that department when it comes to their head-to-head clashes. Clyburn and Randolph went against each other 11 times so far. Five of those came in the 2016-17 campaign when Clyburn was with Darussafaka, and the last six came as part of the classics between CSKA and Real, including Final Four semifinal battles in 2018 and 2019, after which each player won his EuroLeague crown, respectively.
In those 11 games, Clyburn has shot the ball almost 30 more times than Randolph, including 10 more three-point attempts. Comparable to their career numbers, Randolph has shot the ball significantly better in those games, but Clyburn has averaged 5.3 rebounds when playing Real Madrid, compared to 3.3 from Randolph in the games against Clyburn.
Now, as two powerhouses who combine for 18 EuroLeague titles collide in the Russian capital on Thursday, two star forwards are set to face each other for the first time since the 2018 Final Four semifinals. Each knows that his role could well be a key that means one team continues and the other loses the five-game winning streaks that both bring into this game.