UNICS Kazan hosts Lokomotiv-Kuban Krasnodar in a regular-season matchup.
Basket Hall (capacity 7,000), Kazan, Russia
6:00 PM (6:00 MSK), October 14, 2018
Match! Nash Sport, VTB-League.com
Face to Face
13-9 in Loko’s favor
UNICS and Lokomotiv have met often in the League and European competition, including every possible stage. During the previous regular season, UNICS defeated rival Krasnodar twice, highlighted by a 93-65 win in March, which is the biggest margin of victory in games between these teams. Overall, Lokomotiv holds a 13-9 edge vs. UNICS all-time in the League.
Which of these top clubs will remain undefeated to start the season?
CSKA and Khimki, both competing in the EuroLeague this season, are the top favorites in the VTB United League. Trailing last season’s finalists in most early power rankings are Sunday’s opponents: UNICS and Lokomotiv-Kuban.
Titles aren’t won in October, but everyone agrees it’s extremely important to set the right tone and approach for the season. Taking down a direct rival should provide confidence that the team is on the right track.
It should also be noted that both clubs have similar values, emphasizing teamwork, discipline, attention to detail and order on defense.
Balance of Power
UNICS and Lokomotiv began the season with wins. Krasnodar was close to matching Kazan’s year-old accomplishment, defeating Zenit by 32 points in the season opener (UNICS took down St. Petersburg by 34 in 2017). The Tatar club, meanwhile, easily disposed of Avtodor, 76-63.
Both teams are also 2-0 to open the EuroCup campaign. UNICS defeated Mornar Bar and Rytas, while Kuban has conquered Gdynia and Limoges.
For one of the these teams, Sunday will be the first loss of the season.
The offseason is over and teams entered the season with updated rosters. Loko transformed significantly over the summer, adding seven new players: Jamel McLean, Dorell Wright, Vitaly Fridzon, Isaiah Whitehead, Mateusz Ponitka, JaJuan Johnson, Moustapha Fall.
UNICS made several careful acquisitions, signing Raymar Morgan, Errick McCollum, Artem Klimenko and Pierria Henry.
UNICS has two players who have previously played for the Red and Green: Anton Ponkrashov (2014) and Maxim Sheleketo (2008-2013).
Lokomotiv-Kuban general manager Alexey Savrasenko spent the 2011-12 season with UNICS.
Big Man Battle
The League’s tallest player, Moustapha Fall (220 cm) battled Andrey Desyatnikov (218 cm) in the season opener. On Sunday, Loko’s center faces another huge Russian in Artem Klimenko (214 cm).
On Wednesday vs. Limoges, Fall dominated with 13 points in 19 minutes (5-6 from the field). The Russian national team center has a big responsibility on Sunday, but he showed he was ready against Avtodor, posting 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
Pierria Henry vs. Isaiah Whitehead.
Henry and Whitehead are combo guards, who try to do everything. The UNICS newcomer did a nice job vs. Rytas, nearly recording a triple-double: 10 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Loko’s new star, meanwhile, has been solid, if not spectacular as he adjusts to the European game.
Henry and Whitehead are new arrivals on their respective teams, but already play big roles. The potential League stars will have a chance to test themselves against one another on Sunday in the Basket Hall.
UNICS head coach Dimitris Priftis: “Lokomotiv is a very good team with a strong roster. Krasnodar has two excellent players at every position. We will have a tough time on defense. Every player poses a threat. We need to be as aggressive as possible, focus and play our best. Yes, we have some injuries, but everyone else will help each other out, whether the starters or the bench. A lot depends on the opponent. Ejim definitely won’t play against Lokomotiv. He might miss several weeks. Three other players are questionable.”
Lokomotiv-Kuban head coach Sasa Obradovic: “This is a big challenge for us, playing against such a physical, well-organized opponent to start the season. UNICS is always going two directions on the court, ready to pounce on defense and offense. In order to contain them, we can’t let them win the battle on the offensive glass or impose the tempo.”