Game Of The Week: Battle For 1st Place

UNICS Kazan hosts CSKA  Moscow in the Game of the Week.

UNICS, 2014-15 VTB United League quarterfinalists
CSKA, 2014-15 VTB United League champions

Basket Hall (capacity 7,000), Kazan, Russia

3:00 PM (3:00 PM MSK), March 6, 2016

Match TV, United League TV

Face To Face
CSKA and UNICS have a rich history, including multiple meetings in the postseason. The Red-Blues, however, boast a major advantage in the all-time series, leading UNICS 66-16.

The two teams have met 10 times in the VTB United League with CSKA holding a 9-1 edge. The last postseason meeting was in 2014, when the Army Men swept Kazan 3-0, pulling out three extremely competitive games (92-90, 65-61, 92-86). CSKA picked up another two victories during the regular season in 2014-15, blowing out UNICS in Moscow, 75-71, and escaping Kazan with a 75-73 win.

The first meeting this season also went to CSKA. The Army Men took control early, leading by as much as 25 points in the 2nd quarter. The visitors cut into the deficit in the final period, but it was too little too late.

First Encounter

Looking Back


1st place in the league is at stake when UNICS and CSKA meet on Sunday. Kazan can extend its winning streak to 15 and take over the top seed from the Army Men with a victory.

UNICS won its 14th-straight last week, but suffered a devastating blow mid-week, getting eliminated from the Eurocup by Zielona Gura. The Russian club won the first game in the series on the road, but failed to advance on point differential after losing at home in the return game. It's Kazan's most disappointing loss of the season and even led to rumors about Evgeny Pashutin's possible firing. UNICS president Evgeny Bogachev quieted the gossip quickly, telling reporters that Pashutin would have a chance to earn redemption. On Sunday, Pashutin has the perfect opportunity, taking on league leaders CSKA at home.

The Army Men set a new league record for consecutive victories this season, winning 19 straight before a loss at home vs. Lokomotiv-Kuban last week. CSKA bounced back quickly, knocking off Real Madrid on the road in the Euroleague. Now the Red-Blues face their second road game in five days. A win would be huge, helping CSKA retain sole possession of 1st place.
Both teams have plenty to play for on Sunday, further raising the stakes for this classic showdown.

Can UNICS and Pashutin ovecome their "CSKA complex"?

UNICS head coach Evgeny Pashutin became the second man in history to record 100 wins in the VTB United League. At the same time, the Sochi native has had a very tough time against the club where he used to play and worked for many years as both assistant and head coach. Kazan is a measly 1-9 all-time vs. CSKA, the lone victory coming in January 2011. First and foremost, UNICS will need to forget about the past and try to extend the league's longest-current winning streak (14 games), which got its start after a loss to CSKA in Moscow.

Quino Colom (UNICS) vs. Milos Teodosic (CSKA).

Neither Colom nor Teodosic start games, but both point guards play big roles for their teams off the bench. Despite a loss, Colom was terrific for UNICS in the first meeting this season vs. CSKA. He's continued to play well in recent months.

Teodosic is also firing on all cylinders entering Sunday's showdown. Teodosic posted 26 points and eight assists in the loss vs. Krasnodar. Colom and Teodosic both provide a big boost off the bench, adding an extra dose of excitement to one of the season's biggest contests.

UNICS head coach Evgeny Pashutin:
- Games against CSKA are always extra exciting. Two league leaders are meeting and emotions will likely run high in the game. The Army Men have two excellent guards: Teodosic and De Colo. That said, the team's biggest threat comes from the Russian players: Vorontsevich, Khryapa, Fridzon and Kurbanov. We need to be ready to adapt to any situation on the court and battle for each loose ball. CSKA wins when it scores more than 95 points and falls a bit further behind each time when it gives up more than 81 points.

CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis:
- CSKA and UNICS are at the stop of the VTB United League standings, which speaks to how important this game is to both clubs. Much has changed on both ends since our first meeting, but Kazan remains a talented, competitive team with plenty of options on offense. The game will be different and difficult, which is why we need to have the right concentration and motivation in the battle for 1st place.

- CSKA enters the game in excellent spirits and with a mostly healthy roster, - notes Seoul Olympics champion Sergei Tarakanov. - After the setback vs. Loko, they picked up a big win over European powerhouse Real in Madrid. UNICS clearly did not expect the loss at home to an unpredictable Zielona Gura team. It's remarkable, but the Poles have three road wins over Russian clubs: Loko, Zenit and UNICS. I think that CSKA has a stronger and deeper roster. Europe's top backcourt in De Colo and Teodosic can bury any opponent. Aaron Jackson and Cory Higgins can also run the offense. Kazan, on the other hand, struggles with depth at point guard: Colom and Ponkrashov are the only options. CSKA has two solid defensive players in Higgins and Kurbanov to go against UNICS star Keith Langford. CSKA's offense, in my opinion, is more unpredictable, while big men Joel Freeland and Kyle Hines shouldn't get outplayed by their opponent in the paint. That said, it's important for UNICS to bounce back from its Eurocup disappointment. The home team will need to avoid turnovers and knock down an excellent percentage from the field, while preventing easy baskets for the Army Men. It's easy to game plan, but very difficult to execute!