Zenit Russia defeated Tsmoki-Minsk Belarus at home, 83-76 (24-17, 29-21, 19-26, 11-12).
Zenit: Marko Simonovic (23), Kyle Kuric (20 + 10 reb), Demonte Harper (13), Evgeny Voronov (12)
Tsmoki-Minsk: David Kravish (15 + 13 reb), Devon Saddler (13 + 8 ast), Chris Czerapowicz (14), Justin Gray (11)
Thanks to Astana’s loss to Avtodor, Tsmoki-Minsk had a chance to clinch its first-ever playoff berth with a win in St. Petersburg.
Zenit was already locked into 4th place, but hoped to finish the regular season with some momentum after losing three of its last four.
After a lopsided first half, 53-38 in favor of Zenit…
— VTB United League (@VTBUL) May 12, 2018
…the Belarusians began to battle back. Chris Czerapowicz scored 11 of his 14 points in the 3rd quarter, helping the visitors outscore St. Petersburg 26-19 and cut the deficit to eight.
Both teams struggled to score early in the 4th. Kyle Kuric scored the first points of the period at the 7:19 mark, adding two points to Zenit’s lead via the free-throw line.
Trailing 76-66 with four minutes to go, Tsmoki’s offense finally came alive. Justin Gray knocked down a jumper to start the comeback and the visitors scored eight unanswered to make it a two-point game, 76-74, with two minutes on the clock.
After Kuric knocked down a three, Aliaksandr Kudrautsau kept the Belarusians alive with two free throws.
Minsk desperately needed a stop on the next possession, but couldn’t corral the rebound on a Kuric miss, allowing Zenit to inbound the ball under the basket.
Shane Reynolds delivered for the Russians, spotting a wide-open Demonte Harper cutting to the basket for an easy lay-in.
After a timeout, Czerapowicz missed a rushed triple and Kuric punctuated the win with a dunk at the buzzer.
It’s a crushing end for the Belarusians, who miss out on the playoffs despite finishing tied for 8th place with rival VEF, who held the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Zenit, on the other hand, turns its focus to a first-round matchup with Avtodor, one of the hottest teams in the League.
+23 – Despite playing without star forward Sergey Karasev, Zenit’s reserves outscored the Tsmoki bench, 42-19.
Zenit head coach Vasily Karasev:
– This game had no impact on the standings for us, but especially after the loss to UNICS, we wanted to bounce back in front of our fans and gain some confidence. We wanted to play winning basketball that will help us advance in the postseason. I was okay with the defense in the first half, but when we’re putting in that much work, our shooting percentage goes way down. We missed a lot of open shots. Overall, however, the defense paid off.
Tsmoki-Minsk head coach Alexander Krutikov:
– Zenit’s skill and talent proved decisive in the game. Even though he wasn’t extremely efficient in the game, Kuric hit a big 3-pointer after we made a mistake on defense. We were behind by too much at halftime and it was tough to battle a team like Zenit at home after that.
Zenit: Season complete (16-8, 4th place)
Tsmoki-Minsk: Season complete (8-16, 9th place)
Images of the Game