Nizhny Cools Off Avtodor

Nizhny Novgorod defeated Avtodor at home, 75-70. The visitors led much of the 4th quarter, but Semyon Antonov helped Nizhny pull off the comeback and secure a big rivalry win. Ainars Bagatskis's men are now 8-8 with a two-game lead in the race for the playoffs.

This was an important game for both teams. Avtodor was looking to close the gap on the top-4, while Nizhny Novgorod needed a win to stay on track for a playoff berth.

Nizhny Novgorod's offense in the 1st quarter ran through Rasid Mahalbasic. The Slovenian center scored 11 points in the paint, helping his team take an early lead. Avtodor had more balance with six different players scoring in the period, including newly signed Reggie Williams. After 10 minutes, Nizhny enjoyed a 21-20 lead.

The visitors improved on defense in the second period leading to more fast-break opportunities. Mahalbasic kept the home team close, finishing the half with 20 points and five rebounds. Entering the break, Avtodor led by four, 36-32.

Avtodor started double-teaming Mahalbasic in the 3rd quarter and quickly took a double-digit lead. With Mahalbasic neutralized down low, the home team stayed alive from outside the arc, knocking down five 3's in the quarter to trail by six, 57-51.

Turning Point
Avtodor briefly led by eight, but Nizhny quickly closed the gap, knotting the score at 59-59, with just under seven minutes to play.
After Saratov went back in front midway through the period, Semyon Antonov took over, scoring nine straight points to give his team a 71-68 lead. The visitors had several opportunities, but could not capitalize, allowing Nizhny Novgorod to secure the 75-70 win.

Star Player
Semyon Antonov. Nizhny was led by Mahalbasic for much of the game, but Antonov's play down the stretch symbolized the home team's gritty win.

Stat of the Game
13 - Nizhny only gave up 13 points in the 4th quarter.

Nizhny Novgorod head coach Ainars Bagatskis:
- We made some changes on defense prior to this game. We knew that Avtodor would expect something different from us. It worked on defense. It was more difficult on offense with several players struggling to find their rhythm. But the most important thing was forcing Avtodor to play 5-on-5, which we managed to do. We were patient in the second half and only turned the ball over twice. Perhaps Avtodor relaxed a bit when it took the eight-point lead, but we kept fighting and got the result.

Avtodor head coach Alexey Vasilyev:
- We were probably out of rhythm. We had tough trips to Spain and France, plus the loss to CSKA hurt us. We did a lot of good work during the New Year's break, but I see now that we can't hit a shot. Our leaders aren't scoring. Early on, we played well on the glass, but we missed a few big rebounds in the 3rd quarter. At the end, Antonov, Baburin, Strebkov hit shots from outside, which shouldn't be surprising, but we didn't find a way to score down the stretch.