Quarterfinal Recap

VTB-League.com looks back on the VTB United League quarterfinals, highlighting the top stars and biggest moments.

CSKA - Nymburk. Solid Preparation

Series: 3-0

Top Scorers: CSKA - Cory Higgins (16.3 points), Nymburk - Michael Dixon (16.0 points)

Nymburk took 8th in the regular season to advance to the postseason for the first time in club history. Their reward? A date with reigning champs CSKA and this season's clear-cut favorites. As expected, the Army Men advanced to the semifinals, but Nymburk's competitiveness and determination surprised many.

Game 1 was close for three quarters. After beating the Czechs by an average of 35.5 points per game in the regular season, the CSKA fans waited anxiously for the home team to take control. Nymburk pushed the Army Men to the limit, but eventually CSKA's depth and starpower wore the visitors down, giving the Red-Blues a 95-87 win.

Midway through the 1st quarter of Game, Nymburk held a 14-4 lead. But CSKA outscored the Lions, 44-27, over the 2nd and 3rd quarters to seize the momentum. Viktor Khryapa and Pavel Korobkov returned from injury to lead CSKA to a 79-72 victory.

Series Stat
21-0 - the dominant run put together by CSKA at the end of the 1st and beginning of the 2nd quarter in Game 3. Nymburk hoped to steal at least one game at home after impressing in Moscow, but CSKA had other plans, closing out the series with a 102-87 win. The Army Men became the first team to advance to the semifinals.

CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis after Game 2:
- Nymburk competed really well and I want to give our opponents credit. This level of competitiveness in our series is good for the VTB League and basketball overall.

Top Play

Khimki - Lokomotiv-Kuban. Depletion

Series: 3-0

Top Scorers: Khimki - Tyrese Rice (28.3 points), Lokomotiv-Kuban - Maxim Kolyushkin (12.0 points)

Khimki and Lokomotiv both represented Russia in the Euroleague. Krasnodar had a more successful run, advancing to the Final Four, whereas Khimki bowed out in the Top 16. But Kuban's success came at a high cost. The quarterfinals began on Sunday, May 1. Five days earlier, Lokomotiv wrapped up a five-game series vs. Barcelona in the Euroleague, then traveled to St. Petersburg to play Zenit on Thursday in the final game of the regular season.

Entering Game 1 vs. Khimki, the Railwaymen were fatigued and missing leaders Malcolm Delaney and Anthony Randolph (Khimki played without Paul Davis and James Augustine). Despite the mitigating circumstances, the game on the court more than lived up to expectations with Khimki pulling out a hard-fought 86-80 victory.

Game 2 marked the 1000th game in Khimki history and Moscow Region celebrated in style. After knocking down 16 3-pointers in Game 1, Dusko Ivanovic's club went one better on Tuesday, connecting on 17 from beyond the arc. Lokomotiv couldn't match Khimki's tempo. Missing Delaney and Randolph, the Railwaymen suffered a 97-83 defeat to go down 2-0 in the series.

The series shifted to Krasnodar for Game 3. The teams also switched roles. Khimki's outside shooting cooled off, while Lokomotiv enjoyed success in the first half. But lockdown defense in the 3rd quarter helped the visitors seize the momentum (Loko scored only 10 points in the period) and an 18-point advantage. Khimki went on to win by 15 and sweep the series (86-71).

Series Stat
85 - number of points scored by Tyrese Rice in the series. That's one of the best scoring performances in league playoff history.

Lokomotiv-Kuban head coach Georgios Bartzokas after Game 2:
- It's hard to say that we sacrificed the VTB League for the Euroleague Final Four, but facts are facts. If the series goes to five games, it would finish two days before the Euroleague semis. This isn't my decision or the club's. That's just the way it is. We respect the VTB United League and came to battle Khimki, but the most important thing was to avoid risks and be at full strength for the Final Four. For that reason, Malcolm Delaney and Anthony Randolph didn't play. They would have played against Khimki if the Final Four wasn't looming for the team.

Top Play

UNICS - Nizhny Novgorod. Depth

Series: 3-0

Top Scorers: UNICS - Keith Langford (24.3 points), Nizhny Novgorod - Vladimir Ivlev (15.0 points)

Unlike Nizhny Novgorod, UNICS has traditionally been a title contender, though the Black-Whites have enjoyed more success in recent seasons (reaching the finals and semifinals compared to Kazan's semifinal and quarterfinal finishes). Kazan hoped to change that trend in 2016 and did so convincingly.

UNICS went to its bread-and-butter in Game 1. The home team locked down on defense, turned to Keith Langford for offense and took advantage of a deep bench. Playing without Rasid Mahalbasic, Nizhny's reserves were outscored by a 39-7 margin. Not surprisingly, Kazan won comfortably, 83-70.

Bagatskis called on his team to be more competitive in Game 2 and made several changes to the starting lineup to balance the roster. The second meeting was much closer, but UNICS came out on top once again, turning to the same formula as in Game 1 (70-61).

Prior to Game 3, Nizhny asserted that things would be different at home. The Black-Whites went 12-3 in Nizhny during the regular season, knocking off four of the top five teams, including UNICS.

The 1st quarter belonged to the home team. Nizhny raced out to a 25-15 lead, but the magic didn't last long. Kazan once again imposed smothering defense and Langford did his job at the other end to guide the Tatar club to a series sweep (84-71).

Series Stat
24.3 - Keith Langford's scoring average in the series. The regular season's top scorer came up big in the Volga derby.

Nizhny Novgorod head coach Ainars Bagatskis after Game 1:
- UNICS was favored in this game no matter what. In order to compete, we needed two things: patience and some measure of aggressiveness. We played well until we made our first substitutions. You can see for yourself in the stats what's going on: compare Kazan's bench to ours. I'm happy for the guys that had respect for their job and the club and gave everything they had. Excuse me, this is my subjective opinion, but I think that basketball begins with being aggressive and that you should compensate for your level of skill with incredible hunger. If a player comes back to the bench without any fouls or aggressiveness--if all he does is take the ball out--the team can't possibly benefit. I'd say that UNICS won because of its more experienced and acclaimed bench.

Top Play

 Zenit - Avtodor. Clutch Endings

Series: 3-0

Top Scorers: Zenit - Janis Timma (23.7 points), Avtodor - Artem Klimenko (16.5 points)

Expectations were high for the Zenit - Avtodor series. Both teams like to push the tempo and shoot the '3' and entered the postseason in excellent shape. At the end of the day, these two teams put on impressive performances, though the series ended much sooner than expected.

Zenit jumped out to a 20-point lead in Game 1. Avtodor stormed back in the 3rd quarter, scoring 33 points to cut the deficit to six. The score was close until the final minute when Zenit star Ryan Toolson knocked down a big shot to help his team pull out the win, 95-91.

Game 2 was an instant classic. Evenly contested for nearly 40 minutes, the hard-fought, physical game ended with five players being ejected. But the credit for the win goes to Janis Timma. He put together one of the best games in league history, recording 35 points and 15 rebounds to set new playoff records. Timma was also clutch down the stretch, scoring 10 points in the 4th quarter to give Zenit the victory, 97-85.

Game 3 in Saratov featured another close finish. As evidenced by the three-game sweep, Zenit was simply better in the final minutes. Battling a hostile crowd and an opponent on the brink of elimination, St. Petersburg pulled away in the 4th quarter to win by 13 (95-82). The victory marked an end to the series and the VTB United League quarterfinals.
St. Petersburg's win meant that all four quarterfinal series ended in 3-0 sweeps.

Series Stat
7.3 - Zenit's average margin of victory in the 4th quarter.

Zenit head coach Vasily Karasev after Game 2:
- That was a tough game. Everyone knew how important it was. We had to win today in order to travel to Saratov and take care of who is going to win the series. This was a very tense game. We played physical, at times dirty basketball. There were even some skirmishes. The guys are in the locker room with split lips, noses and covered in scratches. It's good that we held on and ultimately won by a comfortable 12-point margin.

Top Play

Quarterfinal MVP

Janis Timma (Zenit). Zenit and Avtodor played in the closest series of the quarterfinals and Timma had a huge role in St. Petersburg's ultimate success. He's been a leader throughout the regular season, but took his game to the next level in the playoffs, averaging 23.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals and a 23.7 efficiency rating. He also set a new playoff record for points (35, later matched by Tyrese Rice) and rebounds (15) in Game 2.