Required Viewing: April 14-15

Required Viewing: April 14-15

Avtodor hosts Nizhny Novgorod, UNICS plays Zenit and other games.

Sunday, April 14

PARMA Russia – Kalev Estonia

Time: 5:30 PM (3:30 MSK)
Place: Molot Sports Palace, Perm, Russia

PARMA: Ural cannot climb higher than 12th in the standings, but would still like to finish the season strong and catch Zielona Gora. Nonetheless, visiting Kalev will be the clear favorite on Sunday. While Perm has lost nine of its last 10, Tallinn can move one step closer to clinching a postseason spot and officially eliminate VEF from contention. 

Kalev: Donaldas Kairys has installed an impressive offense this season. Since the beginning of March, Kalev has played five times and scored more than 100 points in three appearances. Tallinn even scored 95 against UNICS’s League-leading defense, though it wasn’t enough to win. One of the League’s most-improved teams, Kalev is averaging 89.4 points per game, more than Zenit, Lokomotiv, Khimki and UNICS. Perm went down to Kalev in the first meeting of the season, giving up 93 points. Tallinn’s dominance inside was the key to the victory, led by Arnett Moultrie (16 + 9 reb in 25 minutes). Since then, Moultrie has continued to pick up momentum and poses a huge challenge to PARMA’s defense. 

VEF Latvia – Tsmoki-Minsk Belarus

Time: 5:00 PM (5:00 MSK)
Place: Olimpic Sport Center, Riga, Latvia

VEF: Riga played and lost a huge game on Thursday vs. Enisey, going down in the final seconds after an untimely foul on D’Angelo Harrison. The Latvians only have a theoretical chance of making the postseason now, needing to defeat Tsmoki and Lokomotiv, while hoping Kalev, Enisey and Avtodor lose out. It’s not a very likely outcome, but VEF can still hope, while trying to take care of business on Sunday. 

Tsmoki-Minsk: Minsk has little motivation left, hoping only to escape last place. Fortunately, the schedule is favorable with the final three games featuring VEF, Nizhny Novgorod and Zielona Gora. Minsk does not have any home games remaining, however, and the Dragons have only won once on the road this season (vs. Avtodor) back in November. 

Avtodor Russia – Nizhny Novgorod Russia

Time: 6:00 PM (5:00 MSK)
Place: Kristall Sports Palace, Saratov, Russia
TV: Match! Strana

Avtodor: The Volga derby is typically one of the best in Russian basketball. Avtodor and Nizhny are both exciting, high-scoring teams with strong identities. This is a big game for both teams, too. Avtodor has only won one of its last five games, missing opportunities to capitalize on Nizhny and Kalev setbacks. Evgeny Pashutin has yet to get the defense on track: 103 points allowed vs. Zenit, 116 vs. CSKA, 106 vs. Zielona Gora (which has scored over 100 points twice vs. Avtodor). Saratov is now averaging more than 95 points allowed per game. 

Nizhny Novgorod: One circumstance draws these two clubs even closer than geography: both are struggling with injuries. Avtodor played with only eight men vs. Loko, while Nizhny faced CSKA without multiple top players: Odom, Hummer, Strebkov, Perry… Georgy Zhbanov took advantage with a career performance in the defeat. Avtodor took down Nizhny by 23 points in the first meeting of the season, but Saratov has stalled since then, while Nizhny shot up the standings to 7th place and briefly challenged for a top-five finish. Avtodor’s loss to Lokomotiv displayed the team’s poor perimeter defense. Loko didn’t take many shots from downtown, but made 44%. Nizhny will try to take advantage, too, after shooting 48% from beyond the arc vs. CSKA. 

UNICS Russia – Zenit Russia

Time: 7:00 PM (7:00 MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Kazan, Russia
TV: Match TV

UNICS: CSKA finished the regular season with two wins, which means UNICS has to win out to take 1st place in the League. Moscow and Kazan would be tied in that case with 22-4 records, but the Tatar club holds the tiebreaker. Any setback over the final four games would give the regular-season title to CSKA. UNICS has a manageable schedule. In addition to Zenit at home, Dimitris Priftis’ men play PARMA, Avtodor and Zielona Gora, teams which Kazan already beat this season. PARMA and Zielona Gora have also been eliminated from postseason contention, perhaps making UNICS’s job easier. 

Zenit: St. Petersburg has plenty of motivation, too, on Sunday, but the schedule is not quite as easy for the Blue, White and Sky Blues. After playing UNICS on the road, St. Petersburg faces Kalev, which will be trying to clinch a playoff berth. Joan Plaza’s men then take on Lokomotiv and Astana, who are also contending for 4th place. These games will likely decide who ends up with home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Zenit lost a close battle to UNICS in the first meeting of the season as Philip Scrubb committed his only turnover of the game in the final seconds.

Monday, April 15

Astana Kazakhstan – Lokomotiv-Kuban Russia

Time: 8:00 PM (5:00 MSK)
Place: SC Velotrek, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

Astana: The Kazakhs are in the midst of an historic season (14 wins), but have only won two of their last five games. While losses to Khimki and CSKA were no surprise, the blowout defeat to Kalev could significantly impact Astana’s final spot in the standings. The defeat to CSKA dropped Emil Rajkovic’s men to 6th place and need a strong finish to have any chance of catching Zenit and possibly Lokomotiv-Kuban. 

Lokomotiv-Kuban: Kuban is still in 4th place, in line for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. But a road trip to Astana won’t be easy. Loko lost at home to the Kazakhs earlier in the year as Astana thoroughly outplayed Krasnodar in the paint. The trio of Grosselle, Horton and Clemmons nearly outrebounded Loko’s entire team (35 vs. 36). True, the absence of Moustapha Fall made Astana’s job much easier. The French giant should play on Monday, but Lokomotiv will have to adjust to the absence of playmaker Dmitry Khvostov.