Required Viewing: January 13-15

Required Viewing: January 13-15

Six regular-season games are scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. 

Saturday, January 13

Tsmoki-Minsk Belarus – Enisey Russia

Time: 2:30 PM (2:30 MSK)
Place: Falcon Club, Minsk, Belarus

Tsmoki-Minsk: Minsk had an excellent chance to take down St. Petersburg last week and notch its 5th win of the season. While the comeback came up a little short, Tsmoki has another opportunity at home on Saturday as it takes on a reeling Enisey squad. Tsmoki is enjoying its best season yet in the VTB United League and it would shock no one if the Dragons defeat Krasnoyarsk. Defense will be key–though Enisey struggled to score in recent losses at Khimki and UNICS, the Siberians did put up 96 in a win over PARMA. David Kravish, meanwhile, is coming off a career game vs. Zenit (26 points, 13-13 from the field) and is ready to show what he can do against a weakened Enisey frontcourt. 

Enisey: Defense is Krasnoyarsk’s biggest concern. Enisey and Kalev are the only two clubs in the League giving up more than 90 points per game, 10.5 points more than Tsmoki-Minsk concedes. Enisey also only has two days to prepare for the Belarusians after losing by 29 to Monaco in the Champions League. Finally, Enisey will be playing without center Octavius Ellis, who signed with Greece’s Promitheas.

Avtodor Russia – PARMA Russia

Time: 5:00 PM (4:00 MSK)
Place: Kristall Sports Palace, Saratov, Russia

Avtodor: Since Evgeny Pashutin’s arrival, Saratov has steadily climbed the standings and only trails 5th-place Khimki by half a game entering the weekend. Up next: PARMA at home. The visitors haven’t played in the League since December 17, though they did lose twice against Lokomotiv-Kuban in the Russian Cup. Both of these teams like to push the pace, making this an intriguing match-up between two high-powered offenses.

PARMA: After falling to Loko in the Russian Cup, PARMA can turn its full attention to the League. The second-year club is in decent position, having won two of its last three games. PARMA is quick and athletic and more than capable of matching Saratov’s explosive attack. Last year’s match-ups were among the League’s highest-scoring games of 2016-17, with Avtodor winning twice, 101-97 and 110-99. With Perm much improved in the 2017-18 campaign, there won’t be a clear-cut favorite entering Saturday. The duel at point guard will be especially interesting, featuring Avtodor’s 174-cm playmaker Justin Robinson and PARMA’sd 191-cm scorer Codi Miller-McIntyre. 

Sunday, January 14

Lokomotiv-Kuban Russia – Kalev Estonia

Time: 4:00 PM (4:00 MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Krasnodar, Russia
TV: Match TV,

Lokomotiv-Kuban: After last week’s statement win vs. the reigning champs, Kuban needs to be wary of a letdown. Kalev is dangerous and playing with confidence following a win over Khimki on Sunday. On Thursday, the Railwaymen crushed Trento in the EuroCup to improve to 2-0 in the Top 16 and extend its winning streak across all competitions to an astounding 20 games. 

Kalev: Tallinn will try to counter Lokomotiv-Kuban’s superior talent with sharp execution and a blistering pace on offense. Loko may be playing at the highest level in the League right now, but don’t forget that the home team is also battling a much busier schedule and could be dealing with fatigue. On offense, Kalev is ranked in the top six in the League and can match the Railwaymen from beyond the arc with both teams averaging 38.8% on the season.

Nizhny Novgorod Russia – UNICS Russia

Time: 6:00 PM (6:00 MSK)
Place: Sports Palace, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

Nizhny Novgorod: Zoran Lukic’s men welcomed 2018 with a convincing win over Astana. Now they face one of the title contenders in UNICS. Nizhny has historically struggled vs. Kazan, winning only twice in 13 meetings. After a disappointing second-half performance at home in the Europe Cup vs. Istanbul, the team will be looking to bounce back and defend its home court.

UNICS: Kazan has yet to lose in 2018, taking down Enisey and knocking off France’s Limoges in the EuroCup behind a strong performance from Stephane Lasme. UNICS expended a lot of energy in the road win, but Nizhny also played mid-week and both teams will be on short rest. Kazan’s biggest advantage could on the glass, where the club is second in the League (36.4 per game) compared to Nizhny’s second-worst 32.7 rebounds per game.

Zenit Russia – CSKA Russia

Time: 9:00 PM (9:00 MSK)
Place: Yubileyny Sports Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Zenit: Both of these teams have something to prove entering the Game of the Week. Unlike CSKA, Zenit won its previous meeting in the United League, but only just barely, needing a Tsmoki-Minsk turnover in the final possession to escape. The team’s following game vs. Torino in the EuroCup also featured a dramatic finish. Once again, St. Petersburg came out on top but lost its best big man Drew Gordon to an injury. Kyle Kuric compensated for his departure with 28 points to win the EuroCup Top 16 Week 2 MVP.

CSKA: The Army Men bounced back from the loss to Loko with a convincing win vs. Milan in the EuroLeague, 107-81. CSKA will be extremely motivated in St. Petersburg. The team is healthy, which is an advantage, but the stakes are high. A loss to Zenit and victories by UNICS and Lokomotiv-Kuban would drop CSKA into a tie for 2nd place with Kazan. 

Monday, January 15

Astana Kazakhstan – VEF Latvia

Time: 7:30 PM (4:30 MSK)
Place: Velotrek, Astana, Kazakhstan

Astana: The bottom two teams in the standings wrap up the action in Week 13. Both Astana and VEF have lost four in a row, leading the Kazakhs to fire head coach Kostas Flevarakis earlier in the week. Mikhail Karpenko takes over as interim head coach. But don’t count them out yet. Astana only trails 8th-place Nizhny Novgorod by two games and could make up some ground this weekend with a win.

VEF: After the game vs. Avtodor, head coach Janis Gailitis said his team was playing mediocre basketball. Even so, VEF was competitive for most of the contest and trailed by only three points in the final minute. The Latvians need to be better on Monday if they want to avoid a 1-9 start and maintain hope of a playoff push. Kaspars Berzins could be a key factor. The veteran recently joined the team, scoring nine points in the loss to Avtodor.