Six regular season games are scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Saturday, March 30
Time: 8:00 PM (5:00 MSK)
Place: SC Velotrek, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Astana: Emil Rajkovic’s team has cooled off a bit in March, losing two of the last three. But Astana still has a decent chance of finishing in the top four, as long as it can pick up some wins vs. Lokomotiv, Zenit and CSKA in the coming weeks. One year ago in March, Astana lost its first game to PARMA, although the two teams were much closer in the standings that season as the Ural club passed the Kazakhs in the playoff race with the victory.
PARMA: PARMA enters as a significant underdog this season. After a win over Enisey, Perm promptly lost to last-place Tsmoki and could still finish at the bottom of the standings. PARMA trails Astana in most statistical categories. On the other hand, Astana has actually won more often on the road than at home (7 vs. 6) and the first meeting between these two teams was very close with Astana eeking out a late win.
Time: 6:00 PM (6:00 MSK)
Place: SIBUR Arena, St. Petersburg, Russia
Zenit: St. Petersburg has finally passed Astana in the standings thanks to a three-game winning streak and now sits in 5th place. Joan Plaza’s club likely wants to keep moving up, although the Russians have a tougher schedule down the stretch than their Kazakh counterparts. St. Petersburg plays every team in the top six outside of Khimki. That’s why Saturday’s game against last-place Minsk is a must-win. This game could have a huge impact on the final standings.
Tsmoki-Minsk: Minsk snapped a 10-game skid with the win over Perm, but lost its next game to Lokomotiv. Now the Belarusians take on another talented, motivated opponent competing for one of the League’s top spots. St. Petersburg will be a big favorite, especially since it’s been more than four months since the Dragons won on the road (early November in Saratov).
Sunday, March 31
Time: 4:00 PM (12:00 MSK)
Place: Arena.Sever, Krasnoyarsk, Russia
TV: Match! Strana
Enisey: The team’s losing streak has reached five games. Though the performances have been improved in recent weeks, Oleg Okulov’s men are stuck in 11th place and trail 8th-place Kalev by four wins. Enisey has an edge in multiple statistical categories vs. Nizhny Novgorod, but better offense and rebounding is canceled out by the team’s middling defense. Krasnoyarsk gives up almost 90 points per game.
Nizhny Novgorod: These two teams historically have been very competitive. Nizhny leads the all-time series 7-6 and would like to stretch its lead in the series on Sunday. The first meeting of the season came only three weeks ago with the Volga club snapping a four-game skid vs. the Siberians. The Volga club’s primary objective, however, is to keep the pressure on 6th-place Astana with another win after closing the gap significantly in recent weeks.
Time: 4:00 PM (5:00 MSK)
Place: Kristall Sports Palace, Saratov, Russia
Avtodor: Even though Saratov is in 9th place, seven losses in the last 10 games have the club at risk of missing the postseason. Not counting the final game of the season vs. Enisey, Avtodor still plays Lokomotiv, UNICS and Nizhny, all of which are battling for postseason seeding and unlikely to treat any game lightly down the stretch. Evgeny Pashutin’s men do have one big advantage in the race for 8th place. If Avtodor finishes tied with Kalev, the Russians will advance thanks to sweeping the season series with the Estonians.
Zielona Gora: The Poles have essentially been eliminated from postseason contention with recent 40-point losses to Nizhny and CSKA, while giving up 109 to Zenit and 117 to Kalev (a new club record for the Estonians). The defense will be tested once again vs. the League’s second-highest scoring squad (Avtodor averages 91.0 points per game). Saratov will also be eager to get revenge for its February loss in Poland. The victory was Zielona Gora’s first time scoring over 100 points and and the most recent win for Igor Jovovic’s men.
Monday, April 1
Time: 7:30 PM (7:30 MSK)
Place: USH CSKA, Moscow, Russia
TV: Match! Strana
CSKA: The first showdown of the week features the League’s top two teams. This game is huge for both teams both as a valuable warm-up for the playoffs and to decide who will finish in 1st place. CSKA has three more wins than UNICS, but the Tatar club has two games in hand and with a win can control its own destiny. CSKA enters Monday’s game on a roll, coming off a satisfying win in the EuroLeague vs. crosstown rival Khimki.
UNICS: Kazan already has one victory over CSKA this season, back on February 11. Pierria Henry was the hero in that game, while the team executed its plan on defense, limiting CSKA’s stars in impressive fashion. Dimitris Priftis will likely ask his men to do the same again on Monday as he tries to exploits CSKA’s weaknesses, evident in the win over Khimki. The Red and Blue were unable to stop Moscow Region in the paint, while the team’s leading scorers–De Colo, Rodriguez, Clyburn, Higgins–combined for only seven field goals in the win.
Time: 8:00 PM (8:00 MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Krasnodar, Russia
TV: Match! Igra
Lokomotiv-Kuban: The other big showdown features Khimki and Loko, currently ranked 3rd and 4th in the standings. Loko’s big win over Tsmoki was very significant in the playoff race. Now Kuban only trails Khimki by one win, while a victory this week would give the Railwaymen the head-to-head tiebreaker should these teams finish the season with identical records. In the first meeting of the season, Loko stole a win in the final minutes thanks a big shot from Dorell Wright. But Khimki has significantly upgraded its roster since then.
Khimki: The biggest addition, of course, was Alexey Shved’s return from injury. The match-up between Shved and rising Russian star Dmitry Kulagin should be highly entertaining. At the same time, Shved played poorly against CSKA on Friday in the EuroLeague, especially in the second half when he was limited to five points on 1-6 shooting. But Shved is not alone. Khimki has also signed Andrew Harrison in recent weeks, while Janis Timma has looked nearly unstoppable in wins over Kalev and Astana.