Enjoy the final two match-ups of 2017.
Monday, December 25
Time: 7:30 PM (7:30 MSK)
Place: USH CSKA, Moscow, Russia
CSKA: The Red-Blues earned an important win in the EuroLeague last week against Khimki, helping make up for a loss to Olympiacos. Cory Higgins was the star of the Russian derby, pouring in 26 points. He didn’t play in the first meeting between these two teams, but that made no difference as the Army Men cruised to a 20-point win on the road. Dimitris Itoudis noted, however, before the game that his team would need to be very focused. CSKA is coming off a tough two-game week in the EuroLeague, whereas Astana had far more time to prepare for a showdown with the League champions.
Astana: Astana’s physical, athletic style of play could pose problems for Itoudis’s worn-out squad. At the same time, a lot of things need to go right for Astana to have a realistic shot at an upset. The Kazakh club is 0-15 all-time vs. the Army Men and will counter CSKA’s League-leading offense (94.3 ppg) with the League’s 12th-rated offense (73.3 ppg). Astana also typically struggles on the road, yet to win away from home this season and picking up only three victories last season.
Tuesday, December 26
Time: 7:30 PM (7:30 MSK)
Place: BCMO, Khimki, Russia
TV: Match! Nash Sport, VTB-League.com
Khimki: Despite the loss to CSKA in the EuroLeague, Georgios Bartzokas’s club remains in the top eight of the standings. But the team has work to do in the United League. Khimki has struggled in recent games, squeaking past Nizhny and Astana, while losing to CSKA, UNICS and Zenit. Grabbing another win before the New Year would help the team keep Zenit and UNICS within sight as well as create some separation with 6th-place Avtodor. As far as keys to the game, Khimki continues to struggle when Alexey Shved isn’t knocking down shots. Can the rest of the team step up?
Enisey: As the game against CSKA demonstrated, if you can shut down Shved, you’ve got a much better chance of beating Khimki. Moscow Region only scored 68 points in that game. At the same time, Enisey doesn’t have a defender of Nikita Kurbanov’s caliber on the roster. But Krasnoyarsk is starting to gel–after a sluggish start to the season, Enisey went out and buried PARMA by 19 points in its most recent outing. Since that victory, Krasnoyarsk has added ex-UNICS center Martins Meiers, who should be a big boost in the frontcourt. Meiers already debuted for Enisey in the Champions League, scoring 17 points.