CSKA, Khimki, Loko... Is UNICS Next?

Nizhny Novgorod hosts UNICS Kazan in the Game of the Week.

Nizhny Novgorod, 2014-15 VTB United League semifinalists
UNICS, 2014-15 VTB United League quarterfinalists

Nizhny Novgorod Trade Union Sports Palace (capacity 5,500), Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

4:00 PM (4:00 PM MSK), March 20, 2016

Match! Nash sport, United League TV

First Encounter


Face To Face
The history between these two teams dates back to the 2010-11 season when Nizhny and UNICS met in a preseason tournament dedicated to UNICS president Evgeny Borisovich Bogachev. UNICS came out on top, 73-62. Kazan and Nizhny have since met seven times in the VTB United League with UNICS holding a 6-1 edge.

The first meeting this season also went to UNICS. A big run to open the 3rd quarter allowed the home team to take a 20-point lead and ultimately drop 102 points on visiting Nizhny (102-68). The teams also met in the Eurocup this season as UNICS won twice in the Last-32 stage of the competition.

Last season, UNICS and Nizhny met in the group stage of the Euroleague. Nizhny won both games, squeaking past Kazan for the final spot in the Top 16.

Looking Back

With the regular season entering the home stretch, teams are jockeying for playoff seeding, including both Nizhny and UNICS. The home team is locked in a battle with Avtodor and Nymburk for 6th and could potentially climb higher depending on other results.

There's also a chance Ainars Bagatskis's men meet UNICS in the quarterfinals. Kazan is fighting for a top-three seed and can't afford to slip up in the final weeks. CSKA, Lokomotiv-Kuban and Khimki each lost in Nizhny earlier this season and Evgeny Pashutin's club would love to avoid the same fate. It won't be easy. Nizhny is 9-2 at home this season, despite struggling at times on the road.

UNICS also has three former Nizhny Novgorod players on its roster: Artsiom Parakhouski, Vadim Panin and Petr Gubanov.

What impact will Keith Langford have on the outcome?

Nizhny fans have a lot of faith in the home court this season, while UNICS fans have put their complete trust in Keith Langford. The American guard single-handedly took down Khimki last week, erupting for 24 points in the 1st quarter and finishing with 38 in the game. If he gets hot on the road, Nizhny Novgorod will have a very difficult time containing the visitors.

Dmitry Khvostov (Nizhny Novgorod) vs. Quino Colom (UNICS).

Nizhny rarely plays well without getting production from Khvostov. He had another terrific game vs. Lokomotiv-Kuban in a recent win, shooting 10-12 from the field for 26 points and five assists. Colom is also playing very well. He dropped 19 on Nizhny in the first meeting between these teams to go with six rebounds and 10 assists. Expect something similar from these two playmakers in Sunday's Game of the Week.

Nizhny Novgorod head coach Ainars Bagatskis:
- It's tough to play each other four times in a season. We know practically everything about each other. We also know that UNICS was eliminated from the Eurocup and needs to qualify for the Euroleague through the VTB United League. For that reason, there's no doubt they'll be ready on Sunday. We had a tough game with Strasbourg and need to refocus on UNICS prior to the return game in France. We really want to finally beat Kazan this season. We hope our fans will help us do it.

UNICS head coach Evgeny Pashutin:
- The trip to Nizhny Novgorod promises to be difficult and worrisome. CSKA, Khimki and Loko each came here as undisputed favorites, but ended up losing. For the upcoming battle with Nizhny, we need to focus on our defense and play special attention to the rebounding. If we can control the rhythm on offense, we can control the entire game.

- Objectively, UNICS is a step above Nizhny Novgorod, - says 2007 EuroBasket champion and former UNICS player, Nikolai Padius. - The VTB United League standings confirm that. But I don't think that the trip to Nizhny will be a walk in the park for Kazan. Everyone knows how Bagatskis's men play in front of the home fans. Lokomotiv got to experience the full effect recently. I think the Nizhny - UNICS game will come down to the final minutes. You can't miss this type of game!