Five regular season games will be played on Friday, Sunday and Monday.
Friday, March 8
Time: 5:00 PM (5:00 MSK)
Place: FOK Meshchersky, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Nizhny Novgorod: Zoran Lukic’s squad is on the rise. The Volga club has defeated teams like UNICS and Zenit in recent months, with only a defeat to Lokomotiv-Kuban in its last five games. Nizhny is also off to a great start in the Champions League playoffs, blowing out Venezia in game one of the round of 16. Kendrick Perry scored 34 in the victory. Playing at home makes Nizhny the favorite vs. Enisey. The team has not lost in Nizhny Novgorod since December 7.
Enisey: Unlike its opponent on Friday, Enisey’s playoff hopes are on thin ice after a loss to Lokomotiv, trailing Kalev and Avtodor by several games in the race for the final spot. At the same time, Krasnoyarsk only has three more games against top-six teams, which provides hope for a late-season surge. Defeating Nizhny would be a huge step in the right direction, but Enisey has only won twice on the road this season (2-6) and gives up more points away from home than any other team in the League (93.9 per game).
Sunday, March 10
Time: 5:30 PM (3:30 MSK)
Place: Molot Sports Palace, Perm, Russia
PARMA: Perm hasn’t won since December 16, 2018, when they upset UNICS at home. The losing streak has now reached nine games. PARMA plays VEF this week, one of three teams the Russians have defeated this season. But that took place in the first game of the season and Riga now looks like a much more dangerous opponent, having won several games to re-enter the playoff conversation. Tre’ McLean, who played for PARMA last season, has returned from Avtodor where he averaged 9.6 points per game this season.
VEF: Thanks to a three-game winning streak, the Latvians are surprisingly back in the playoff mix. But the team still has a long ways to go. Riga has played 19 games already (only CSKA has more with 20), whereas most teams have between 17-18 appearances. VEF’s resurgence has been partially tied to the signing of Glenn Cosey. He’s been a fantastic addition. After a quiet debut vs. Kalev, he poured in a combined 41 points vs. Zenit and Zielona Gora, giving Janis Gailitis another dangerous weapon on the court.
Time: 7:30 PM (7:30 MSK)
Place: SIBUR Arena, St. Petersburg, Russia
TV: Match! Strana, VTB-League.com
Zenit: St. Petersburg’s previous two games have been lost in identical fashion, blowing considerable leads only to lose in the final seconds (the defeat to VEF came in double overtime). Joan Plaza explained that a lack of concentration is to blame. Checking out vs. Avtodor is definitely never advised. Saratov already dealt Zenit one narrow defeat (95-94) with St. Petersburg giving up a 19-point lead in that game. But both teams had different coaches at the time (Vasily Karasev and Dusan Alimpijevic, respectively), which means the rivalry has a different feel this weekend.
Avtodor: Saratov put up a ton of points in its last two games, winning both and strengthening its position as the League’s second-highest scoring team (91.3 per game). Zenit, however, is not far behind Avtodor in that category, averaging 88.9 per game, while Avtodor’s defense continues to be lackluster. Avtodor has given 100 or more points in seven of its 18 games and ranks last in the League for points allowed. The team also suffered a setback in its FIBA Europe Cup round of 16 opener, losing 79-76 in an uncharacteristically low-scoring affair. Avtodor has scored fewer than 80 points only four times this season across all competitions.
Monday, March 11
Time: 7:00 PM (8:00 MSK)
Place: Kalevi Spordihall, Tallinn, Estonia
Kalev: Tallinn has alternated wins and losses for several weeks and remains tied with Avtodor for 8th place and the final playoff spot, though Saratov holds the tiebreaker. Arnett Moultrie has been a wonderful addition, leading the team in scoring and rebounding (17.4 + 7.5), which could be a big factor vs. Astana, which is the League’s best rebounding team (36.6 per game). The first time these two teams met, Astana’s deeper bench was a deciding factor as the Kazakh reserves outscored Kalev’s back-ups by a 42-13 margin.
Astana: The team has won five in a row and needs only one more win to match the club record of 13 victories, set during the 2014-15 season, which had a 30-game slate. The League’s biggest overachievers are only two wins out of second place with three of the next four games against teams from the bottom half of the standings. During the current winning streak, Astana has been led by a different player in almost every game: Ken Horton, Stephen Holt, J.J. O’Brien, Michael Jenkins… Which means Kalev will have a difficult time figuring out who to focus on defensively.
Time: 7:00 PM (9:00 MSK)
Place: CRS Hala Zielona Gora, Zielona Gora, Poland
Zielona Gora: After joining from PARMA, Kodi Justice and Michael Humphrey debuted for the Poles vs. VEF, but couldn’t help secure a win, scoring six and 10 points, respectively. Zielona Gora trails CSKA in almost every statistical category. The Poles and Army Men are at opposite ends of the spectrum on offense with CSKA leading at 91.6 points per game and Zielona Gora in last place with 75.2 per game. Although the Polish club plays better at home, the Army club will still be the favorite.
CSKA: Following a painful loss to Khimki, the Red and Blue will likely be extremely motivated for a bounce-back performance. Dimitris Itoudis and co. only lead UNICS and Lokomotiv by three wins and have played twice more than those clubs. Expect CSKA to do everything necessary for a win, even if the game is a quick turnaround from the EuroLeague meeting with Olimpija on March 8.