UNICS Kazan hosts Zenit St. Petersburg in a regular-season showdown.
Basket Hall (capacity 7,000), Kazan, Russia
7:00 PM (7:00 MSK), April 14, 2019
Match TV, VTB-League.com
Face to face
The rivalry between Zenit and UNICS, despite its short history, has had some memorable moments. Kazan defeated St. Petersburg twice last season in the regular season, including a 34-point victory at home. Zenit, however, got sweet revenge, defeating UNICS in the 3rd-place game at the Final Four (93-79). The biggest series between the two teams cam in the 2016 playoffs, when UNICS took down Zenit in five games to the reach the finals, clinching a EuroLeague spot in the process.
Kazan stole a win in St. Petersburg earlier this season (77-74). Overall, UNICS holds a 9-6 lead in the series.
The regular season is nearing the finish line. UNICS (18-4) can pick up its first-ever regular-season title, but needs to win the final four games, which would give the Tatars a 22-4 record and 1st place thanks to the tiebreaker with CSKA.
The game vs. Zenit (14-8) looks like the biggest remaining obstacle as the White and Greens also play PARMA, Avtodor and Zielona Gora. Home-court advantage throughout the postseason is within reach for UNICS with a win on Sunday.
Zenit (14-8) is battling Lokomotiv-Kuban (15-7) and Astana (14-9) for 4th place. These three clubs have several head-to-head games down the stretch, but any setbacks could spell trouble. The race for 4th is just getting started.
Sergey Karasev, son of the former Zenit coach, is still one of the team leaders, but can’t help against UNICS. The Russian forward is recovering from an injury and won’t be back until the playoffs.
UNICS and Zenit are among the top-three in the League in outside shooting. Kazan ranks third with 39.2%, while Zenit is first at 40.7%.
Vladislav Trushkin played for UNICS last season. Evgeny Voronov played two years in Kazan (2008-09, 2016-17). Vadim Panin also played twice for the Tatar club (2006-07, 2014-17).
UNICS has two former Zenit players: Pavel Sergeev (2016-17) and Andrey Koshcheev (2014-16).
Errick McCollum vs. Evgeny Voronov.
McCollum missed almost a month of action in the League due to injury, returning in Tallinn. The American guard was incredible in the win over Kalev, scoring 33 points in 23 minutes, shooting 12-13 from the field, including 5-5 from beyond the arc.
The Zenit captain scored 14 points on his former team in the first meeting of the season. Voronov, however, may be charged primarily with defense on Sunday. UNICS is very dependent on the trio of McCollum, Henry and Smith, which should mean plenty of work for one of the League’s top perimeter defenders.
UNICS head coach Dimitris Priftis: “This will be a tough game. Zenit is a good team. They play aggressive defense and are organized on offense. We need to concentrate and play smart with energy. We need to show consistency and communicate during this stretch of the season. That’s very important ahead of the playoffs.”
Zenit head coach Joan Plaza: “UNICS is a very serious opponent. They have a strong roster and players with international experience. I think they are enjoying a simply terrific season. This upcoming game is a chance to see if we’ve improved in recent weeks. Plus, don’t forget that after Kazan we have to go to Tallinn in the middle of the week. It’s been a long time since we played twice in a week. I see how the guys are working at practice and I’m satisfied with their effort. We’re capable of playing UNICS even and fighting for a win.”