Defensive Maneuvers: How Loko Won In Riga

Lokomotiv-Kuban has made a name for itself this season with its defense, trailing only CSKA in points per game allowed in the VTB United League. Kuban's most impressive quality, however, is its ability to make adjustments on the fly and improve defensively over the course of a game.

In the team's most recent game vs. VEF, Georgios Bartzokas's men gave up a lot of points (84). At the same time, changes on the defensive end helped Kuban seize control and secure a win.

Konstantin Kucher analyzes Krasnodar's defense vs. VEF in the newest edition of Breaking It Down.

Kuban has struggled at times to start games well and, once again, did not look very convincing in the 1st quarter vs. Riga.

The visitors particularly struggled to defend the pick-and-roll. The typical approach of double-teaming and hedging wasn't very effective. Riga had little trouble getting through the Loko traps and attacking in the paint or on the perimeter.

The 2nd quarter saw significant improvement as Bartzokas took a calculated risk, instructing his team to switch on the pick-and-roll. The strategy had worked in a recent Euroleague game vs. Anadolu Efes and it got the job done again in Latvia.

Kuban gave up size to VEF inside and speed on the perimeter. 

But they prevented Riga from getting open looks.

It proved to be quite successful. The home team's shooting percentage declined and turnovers went up, with Loko converting the miscues into easy points.

During the 3rd quarter, VEF found a way through the Kuban defense. The home team made some tough shots and got a little lucky. But VEF also began to take advantage of Loko's switching on defense, forcing the Loko guard to defense one of their big men in the post.

As a result, VEF scored several easy baskets around the rim.

Nonetheless, the home team wasn't able to take full advantage of the mismatch. Often, VEF struggled to get the ball inside, leading to contested shots or turnovers.

Georgios Bartzokas identified the problem and tried to find a solution. Beginning in the 4th quarter, he went with a bigger lineup, putting three big men on the court with Claver at small forward.

That allowed the Railwaymen's big men to help out on defense and take away VEF's advantage.

Francisco Cruz kept VEF alive for much of the 4th quarter, but the Mexican guard ran out of steam in the final minutes as Lokomotiv took full control of the game. The visitors kept Riga from scoring and went on to win the game.

Georgios Bartzokas once again demonstrated his ability to make timely adjustments in Riga. His men did not play their best, but his decision-making kept the team in the game. Lokomotiv is now 5th in the standings, boasting a star-studded roster with a very talented coach. Don't be surprised if they keep climbing during the second half of the season.

Konstantin Kucher