CSKA Moscow defeated Zenit St. Petersburg at home, 83-73 (16-14, 26-14, 24-22, 17-23).
CSKA: Daniel Hackett (15 + 5 Reb), Nando De Colo (15), Nikita Kurbanov (12)
Zenit: Jalen Reynolds (14 + 5 reb), Marko Simonovic (13), Gal Mekel (11 + 7 ast)
CSKA (19-4) and Zenit (14-7) are battling for the top seeds in the postseason. The Army Men are currently in 1st place, while St. Petersburg hoped to take over 4th.
Moscow was able to neutralize the visitors’ strengths in the first half. The League’s top three point shooting team knocked down only one of twelve, while star Jalen Reynolds was limited to six points. CSKA began to pull away early in the 2nd quarter as triples from Nando De Colo, Alex Peters and Ivan Ukhov gave the home team a 25-16 lead. By halftime, Moscow had pushed its advantage to 14, 42-28.
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Zenit’s offense struggled in the first half, then the defense broke down to start the 3rd quarter. Daniel Hackett started getting to the bucket with ease, drawing fouls and connecting from beyond the arc. The Italian scored 13 straight points, allowing CSKA to go ahead by 20, 52-32. Zenit never got back in the game. The Red and Blue take revenge for the loss in St. Petersburg and become the first team to 20 wins.
16 – number of CSKA 3-pointers (53%). That’s a record for the Army Men and tied for the 4th-most in the League this season.
CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis: “Congratulations to the team. We played better today. We were more decisive and focused on defense and creating shots. We managed to play the game according to the needed scenario and slowed down a really good team in Zenit. Our lead reached 22-24 points during the contest. We dominated and closed out the win. We could have shot better inside the arc, since some of our possessions were pretty risky. But we did a good job moving the ball, recording 21 assists, which felt good for us and the fans. Now we have a mini marathon ahead of us with three games in five days, including one on the road. It’s safe to say that in this sense, CSKA’s schedule is quite different from other teams. But that’s how it is and that’s how we prepare.”
Zenit head coach Joan Plaza: “Congratulations to CSKA. They were better today and absolutely deserved to win. We played terribly in the 2nd quarter and started the 3rd quarter poorly, which left us few chances to come back. But we didn’t give up. I know that last year the team lost big here, by around 40 points. Today, we kept competing and played hard without looking at the score, even when our young guys were on the court and others who don’t get much playing time. The reasons for our loss were our poor three-point shooting. We started 1-12 or 1-14. We earned few free throws, which speaks to a lack of pressure in the paint, and we didn’t move the ball enough. We only had five assists at halftime, even though we are one of the best teams in that category. You could say that we tried to go one-on-one at times.”