Nizhny Novgorod defeated Avtodor Saratov at home, 84-82 (24-23, 23-18, 16-23, 21-18).
Nizhny Novgorod: Stevan Jelovac (27 + 6 reb), Jake Odum (15), Maxim Grigoryev (14), Dmitry Uzinsky (11 + 9 reb)
Avtodor: Coty Clarke (21 + 8 reb), Branden Frazier (15), Ian Hummer (11), Justin Robinson (10 + 5 reb)
Following a six-point loss to Enisey at home on April 15, Nizhny coach Zoran Lukic lamented that his team had almost no chance of reaching the postseason.
Perhaps that’s exactly what his players needed to hear. Thanks to wins over Zenit and Avtodor, the Russian club is headed to the postseason with a game to spare.
Once again, Stevan Jelovac was the star, scoring a game-high 27 points to go with six rebounds. Nizhny led by six at halftime, before Avtodor stormed back in the 3rd quarter to take a one-point lead and set up a dramatic final period.
In the end, the home team was able to hang on for a dramatic win at the free-throw line, as Saratov guard Brendan Frazier missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The win ends Nizhny’s one-year postseason drought, while Avtodor misses a chance to build on its lead over Khimki for 5th place.
The victory also means PARMA has been eliminated from the postseason chase.
Nikita Mikhailovsky became the first player in League history born in 2000 to start a game. The Avtodor forward finished with three points and three rebounds in eight minutes. He’s also the third-youngest player to ever start a game (17 years, 240 days) behind Vita’s Goga Bitadze (16 years, 99 days) and VEF’s Rodions Kurucs (16 years, 272 days).
1 – number of seasons Nizhny Novgorod went without making the playoffs (2016-17). It’s also how long Zoran Lukic needed to get his team back to the postseason.
Какой пас Артема Комолова на Дмитрия Узинского 😍
Artem Komolov threads the needle to Dmitry Uzinskii 😍 pic.twitter.com/LD5U1xS68p
— VTB United League (@VTBUL) May 8, 2018
Nizhny Novgorod head coach Zoran Lukic:
– The only thing worse than this type of a win is a loss. Unfortunately, throughout the game we did not do some of the things we’d promised to. The players knew what to do, but didn’t react in time. If we’d played the way we expected to, we could have avoided an ending like this and made it easy on ourselves and the fans. We got lucky today. I’m not a fan of being lucky, but what can you do. In any case, we’re happy we made the playoffs.
Avtodor head coach Evgeny Pashutin:
– As expected, the game was very challenging. Nizhny needed a win to make the playoffs. For us, it was important to battle for 5th place. We came out unprepared. We started very soft and let Jelovac score 20 points in the first 20 minutes. After halftime, Clarke took over the game. Overall, the team started being more aggressive on defense and playing to its ability. Even so, we gave away a lot of the momentum and allowed Nizhny to feel freedom. We won the 3rd quarter, but ran out of energy in the 4th, plus Downs and Klimenko received their fifth fouls. We tried to use our younger players today and give them a chance to shine. I have to give them credit: They battled to the end.
Nizhny Novgorod: May 12 home vs. Lokomotiv-Kuban
Avtodor: May 12 away vs. Astana
Images of the Game