Seven regular season games will be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Friday, March 1
Time: 7:00 PM (7:00 MSK)
Place: Meshchersky FOK, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Nizhny Novgorod: The first weekend of spring begins with a meeting between two ambitious clubs. Both Nizhny Novgorod and Zenit are extremely motivated and enter Friday separated by only two games in the standings. Nizhny, however, has some holes in the roster: After releasing Ilya Popov, Nizhny lost another frontcourt player, Rod Odom, for the rest of the season to injury.
Zenit: After the New Year, St. Petersburg was one of the hottest teams in the League, winning five in a row. The streak, however, was snapped in sensational fashion by VEF, who took down Zenit in double overtime on the road just before the All-Star break. That defeat, coupled with Astana’s subsequent win, dropped St. Petersburg to 6th place. Joan Plaza has reason for optimism with several players returning from injury, but Sergey Karasev, Andrey Desyatnikov and Vladislav Trushkin will likely need time to regain game fitness and only recently started practicing with the team. At least for now, Zenit remains short-handed.
Saturday, March 2
Time: 5:30 PM (3:30 MSK)
Place: Molot Sports Palace, Perm, Russia
PARMA: Perm’s losing streak has reached eight games, nearly squashing the team’s playoff hopes. This game vs. Avtodor is one of the last opportunities for the Ural club to keep its postseason chances alive. PARMA has given up more than eighty points in all but one game during the skid, including 93 points in a loss earlier this season to Avtodor. The team is also down several players, after Michael Humphrey and Kodi Justice left the club by mutual agreement.
Avtodor: Saratov has also been in a funk, recently dropping four in a row, before finally breaking through with a win over Kalev. Avtodor won the game in signature style, scoring 112 points, while giving up 109, making it the 7th game this season in which the team has allowed 100 or more points. Saratov has the League’s worst defense by a wide margin (93.3 points allowed per game). At the same time, Avtodor took advantage of the All-Star break to sign another offensive weapon, bringing in DJ Newbill from the Australian league.
Lokomotiv-Kuban: Loko took advantage of Khimki’s recent struggles to climb past Moscow Region in the standings and now has its sights set on 2nd place. Next up for the Railwaymen is Enisey. Despite Loko’s favored status, the first meeting of the season was very competitive with Krasnodar needing a 4th-quarter comeback sparked by Dmitry Kulagin to seal the victory.
Enisey: Despite a loss to Kalev, Krasnoyarsk is still in the hunt for 8th place. Enisey only trails Avtodor by one win with a game in hand. The extended All-Star break came at the perfect time, allowing Enisey’s injury-ravaged roster time to heal. Oleg Okulov lamented after the game with Kalev that his team didn’t even have enough players for 5×5 action in practice. Ilya Popov has been signed to strengthen the frontcourt, joining from Nizhny Novgorod where he averaged 7.1 points in 14 appearances.
Time: 6:00 PM (6:00 MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Kazan, Russia
TV: Match! Strana, VTB-League.com
UNICS: Kazan was the best team in the League in February, defeating Khimki and CSKA to take over 2nd place. Two UNICS players were finalists for the February MVP–Raymar Morgan and Pierria Henry–and Henry took home the award thanks to his dominating 4th-quarter performance vs. CSKA. Unlike Astana, UNICS has not played since the middle of February and could be rusty after such a long break. Astana, of course, recently defeated PARMA on February 27.
Astana: Astana has only beat UNICS once in 13 attempts, way back in 2015. But the Kazakh club has been one of the League’s most dangerous teams this season and could catch 4th-place Khimki in the win column with another victory. UNICS barely escaped in the first meeting, taking advantage of several Astana mistakes (including nine turnovers from Anthony Clemmons, who’s likely determined to make a better impression this time around).
Sunday, March 3
Time: 5:00 PM (6:00 MSK)
Place: Kalevi Spordihall, Tallinn, Estonia
Kalev: Tallinn continues to contend for a playoff spot, but suffered a big loss over the break as star Janari Joesaar signed with Spanish club Tenerife. He was one of the keys to Kalev’s win over Tsmoki-Minsk in January, recording 14 points and six rebounds.
Tsmoki-Minsk: The Belarusian Dragons’ playoff hopes are practically gone as the only team in the League with only two wins. Minsk trails Tallinn in almost every statistical category, especially on offense, where they average 10 fewer points per game than Kalev.
Time: 5:30 PM (7:30 MSK)
Place: CRS Hala Zielona Gora, Zielona Gora, Poland
Zielona Gora: The Polish club managed to snap its losing streak and still has postseason ambitions for its debut season. The match-up with VEF is crucial for Zielona Gora’s playoff dreams: With a victory, the Poles can tie VEF in the win column with two games in hand.
VEF: The blowout win vs. Zielona Gora was a turning point for VEF. Janis Gailitis’ men have escaped last place and moved back into the playoff hunt with two more wins. But Zielona Gora has also been playing better. After scoring only 57 points vs. the Latvians, the League newcomers scored over 100 points for the first time vs. Avtodor. The Poles are especially dangerous on offense at home, where they average 81.6 per game, whereas VEF has struggled on the road.
Monday, March 4
Time: 8:00 PM (8:00 MSK)
Place: BCMO, Khimki, Russia
TV: Match TV, VTB-League.com
Khimki: The game of the week features two teams who were only recently fighting over 1st place. Khimki’s injuries, however, have exacted a toll, dropping the club to 4th. Even Alexey Shved’s long-awaited return vs. Milan in the EuroLeague was marred by injuries to Jordan Mickey and Tony Crocker, which will seriously weaken Khimki in all facets of the game. Moscow Region was able to sign Andrew Harrison, who has NBA experience, but Rimas Kurtinaitis does not expect he will be available vs. CSKA, considering he hasn’t joined the team yet.
CSKA: The Army Men have already clinched a spot in the EuroLeague playoffs and can focus more attention on United League games. The biggest intrigue lies in the match-up between Alexey Shved and Nando De Colo. Shved didn’t play in the previous game, which CSKA won handily, 75-65, and De Colo only scored seven points. The Russian star is still finding his rhythm, but CSKA will also have little time to prepare after Friday’s game vs. EuroLeague rival Olympiacos.