Mike James and Jordan Loyd, two of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague’s elite scorers, will go head-to-head for the second time this season when CSKA Moscow hosts Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade on Thursday in the Russian capital. While the 27-year-old Loyd is in his second season in the competition, James, 30, was the 2018-19 Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner and over his seven EuroLeague campaigns has a career average of 16.2 points.
The two prolific scorers had not had a chance to play each other until earlier this season and once they did, the game went entirely Loyd’s way.
Last season, his first in the EuroLeague with Valencia Basket, Loyd missed both games against CSKA and went on to state during Crvena Zvezda’s Media Day in September that he was looking forward to playing against CSKA for that specific reason. He got his chance in Round 5 and took it by the horns. Loyd not only shined with a career-high 31 points, but led Zvezda to an upset 86-84 overtime victory.
Loyd made 9 of 15 two-point shots and 2 of 6 triples while pulling down 6 rebounds on that night. On the other hand, James finished that contest with 9 points, missing all of his 4 three-point attempts, including a potential game-winning triple, while dishing 8 assists.
However, that turned out to be a rare night in which James did not reach double-digits in scoring – one of only two such instances this season. James is EuroLeague’s scoring leader this season averaging 19.6 points and enters Round 31 as the only player who has totaled more than 500 points this season, despite appearing in 26 games. It’s the third time in his career that James has reached that single-season milestone.
Loyd ranks fourth on the scoring charts this season, both in total (440) and average points (17.6 ppg.), while appearing in 25 games, the fewest among this season’s top scorers in total points.
Overall, James has been a little bit more efficient than Loyd this season, but their numbers have been impressively close. For instance, Loyd has attempted just 3 more two-point shots this season than James, making 2 more shots to have the slightest of advantages in two-point accuracy.
James, on the other hand, has been a more productive three-point shooter, both in volume and accuracy. Only one player has made more threes this season than James’s 69 and he shot them at 35.8%, compared to Loyd’s 31.6%. While Loyd contributes just a bit more on the glass, James has almost doubled Loyd in assists, as he ranks sixth this season with 5.8 per game, with Loyd posting 3.3 per contest.
Thursday will be an opportunity for both players to improve those numbers. With CSKA needing a win that would all but secure its playoff spot, James will also be looking to redeem himself for a subpar performance against Zvezda earlier in the season. Loyd, on the other hand, will be embracing another chance on Thursday night to prove himself against top opposition.