«Kalev» Tallinn, Estonia vs. «Khimki» Khimki, Russia
Kalev come up short against Khimki
In Week 15 of the regular season, Khimki (Russia) ground out a win in Tallinn over Kalev (Estonia), 65-57. The Moscow Region team played poorly in the first half, but seized momentum after the break on their way to a hard-fought win.
Each team have goals to meet as the end of the regular season approaches. Though Khimki and Kalev have very different expectations – Khimki hope to finish in first, while Kalev battle to avoid relegation – both were highly motivated coming into the contest and Khimki fans had no illusions about the serious test Tallinn would present their club.
Egor Vyaltsev collected the game’s first seven points to give his team a nice lead. Kalev struggled early in the half court, but ran the break well, which helped to keep their fast-starting visitors within sight. The Estonian club’s shooters did improve as the quarter wore on and they closed the gap to four points through one period of play, 20-16.
Khimki took no notice of the home team’s growing confidence and paid for it in the second. Their lazy possessions ended in contested, inefficient shot selection, while Kalev continued to punish their opponent in transition, leading to a 10-0 run. The Estonians also played tremendous defense as the Yellow-Blues were blanked for the first five minutes of the quarter. Petteri Koponen finally ended the slump, but Khimki continued to trail, their offense stymied by Kalev’s imposing center Bamba Fall. The Tallinn crowd gave their men a standing ovation at halftime, as they headed to the locker room on top, 31-24.
Khimki did not want to lose two straight in the VTB United League. Three minutes into the second half, the Russians led, 37-35. Rimas Kurtinaitis found a relatively solution for his men: full-court pressure and an offense built around Paul Davis in the paint (the American did not play in the first half). The center not only scored and rebounded, but also drew double-teams, giving his teammates more breathing room. Khimki won the third quarter 22-10 and led by five points heading into the final period.
In the fourth quarter, the Yellow-Blues looked to slowly, but surely build their lead from beyond the arc: with three and a half minutes left, Kurtinaitis’s team had an encouraging 59-51 advantage. The Estonians struck back, however, inspired by Fall’s play in the paint. Their 6-0 run made it a one-possession game, 59-57, and the fans anxiously awaited the conclusion.
When the chips are down, self-control and individual talent take precedent. K.C. Rivers and Petteri Koponen displayed those qualities brilliantly, scoring four points on two mid-range jumpers. Kalev had no answer, allowing Khimki to win their 11th game of the season, 65-57, and pass UNICS Kazan in the standings.
Star of the Game
Paul Davis. In order to be the best player in the game, the center needed only 11 minutes of playing time in the second half. Brought on for the first time in the third quarter, Davis turned the game around for Khimki with his play down low. The dominant big man returned confidence to the Russians, the lead, and, ultimately, helped secure a win.
Stat of the Game
4 – Kalev won the second quarter, 15-4. Khimki’s four points in 10 minutes tie a VTB United League record. They weren’t the only ones to go completely cold in Week 15. Another top Russian club, CSKA, did the same in the fourth quarter against Tsmoki-Minsk.
Khimki head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis:
- We needed this win and in the end we got it. I also tried to find the right combination of players on the court, but didn’t always succeed. The fourth quarter was quite interesting and we got luckier than Kalev down the stretch.
Kalev head coach Alar Varrak:
- We got a little unlucky at the end. If we had made one more 3-pointer or free throw, who knows what might have happened… We defended fairly well, but couldn’t finish enough on offense.
Kalev: Armands Skele – 20 points, nine rebounds; Bamba Fall – 11 points, 10 rebounds; four blocks.
Khimki: Zoran Planinic – 12 points, six assists, three steals; Paul Davis – 11 points, six rebounds.