Avtodor Saratov hosts Zenit St. Petersburg in the Game of the Week.
Kristall (capacity 5,500), Saratov, Russia
5:00 PM (4:00 MSK), December 15, 2018
Match! Nash Sport, VTB-League.com
Face to Face
Avtodor has earned a reputation as a giant-killer during its four seasons in the League, but Zenit has been the bigger threat to Saratov’s success, at least in the postseason. Twice Vasily Karasev’s men have knocked Avtodor out of the playoffs. In 2016 and 2018, Saratov entered the postseason with hopes of advancing past the first round, but ended up getting swept unceremoniously, 3-0.
Zenit enjoys an 11-3 advantage in the all-time series.
Avtodor got off to a rough start, but quickly adjusted. Known for its aggressive approach, Saratov was not afraid to remake its coaching staff and roster a few weeks into the season. Sergei Mokin was replaced by 32-year-old Dusan Alimpijevic, while Jackie Carmichael and McKenzie Moore exited, replaced by Anthony Ireland and Boris Savovic. So far, the moves appear to be working.
Avtodor is beginning to find its rhythm. Perrin Buford and Trae Golden have been terrific on offense and 18-year-old Nikita Mikhailovsky has made a fabulous impression. The club went down to VEF in Alimpijevic’s debut, but rebounded with a 23-point win on the road over Nizhny Novgorod. The game vs. St. Petersburg should let us know how far along the rebuild has progressed and whether or not Saratov can be a legitimate threat in the League.
Zenit has lost twice in the last seven days (UNICS, Valencia) and enters the game vs. Avtodor with some health issues. As Vasily Karasev said, the team essentially played with six men in the second half vs. Valencia on Tuesday. But Zenit does not want to lose three in a row, even without a full roster. The Blue, White and Sky Blues will try to get back on track vs. an opponent they have found success against in the past and stay in the race for a top-3 finish.
Avtodor signed a contract with Boris Savovic this week. The forward began the season at Zielona Gora, where he averaged 13.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in the League. The Serb has already started practicing with the team and should debut against Zenit. Expectations are high for Savovic in Saratov. He will do everything in his power to meet them.
📢 БОРИС САВОВИЧ ПЕРЕШЕЛ В «АВТОДОР» ✍
БК «Автодор» подписал контракт до конца сезона-2018/19 с лидером польской @basket_zg, 31-летним сербским тяжелым форвардом Борисом @savovicboris САВОВИЧЕМ (208 см, 105 кг).
— BC Avtodor Saratov (@AvtodorSaratov) December 10, 2018
Codi Miller-McIntyre is back in the League. The former PARMA star signed with Zenit and already played against UNICS. The author of last season’s only two triple-doubles recorded an uncharacteristic three points and three assists against Kazan. But in the EuroCup vs. Valencia, the guard bounced back with nine assists. Vasily Karasev said he expects an aggressive approach from his new signing. Saturday’s game will show if Codi’s adaptation in St. Petersburg has continued to progress. The American recorded one of his triple-doubles last April vs. Avtodor while playing for Perm: 16 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists.
Nikita Mikhailovsky started the game vs. Nizhny and delivered with the best game of his career. In 28 minutes, the young Russian shot 5-5 from the field and scored a career-high 16 points. Mikhailovsky built on the game with another solid performance vs. Kataja in the Europe Cup, recording 10 points, four rebounds and three assists. Perhaps his breakout stretch will continue vs. Zenit.
Avtodor's Forward Nikita Mikhailovsky scored a career-high 16 points today vs Nizhny Novgorod! pic.twitter.com/F9JiK7HgpX
— VTB United League (@VTBUL) December 7, 2018
Avtodor head coach Dusan Alimpijevic: “On Saturday, we take on a top-5 team, so we need to be 100% focused if we want to win. I also want to note one positive for us: Boris Savovic will debut in the game vs. Zenit.”
Zenit head coach Vasily Karasev: “Avtodor, especially at home, plays up-tempo, aggressive basketball. Our goal is to stop their fast breaks. Saratov has several individually talented players. A lot will depend on our one-on-one defense. Saratov’s style has not changed. They sign players that fit their approach. Now they’ve added some big men. When we recall all of our games with Avtodor, especially on the road, we understand it won’t be an easy game.”