Five VTB United League games are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday, November 18
Time: 3:00 PM (12:00 MSK)
Place: SC Velotrek, Astana, Kazakhstan
Astana (1-5): Astana lost to last-place Kalev last week. Offense has been a struggle for the Kazakh club this season. Astana only put up 73 points in the Estonian capital, and wasn’t bailed out by the defense. One of the team’s goals on Saturday will be to avoid a defensive slugfest with lots of free throws. Astana is last in the League in free-throw percentage, while Enisey ranks 1st in the category (84.8%).
Enisey (1-3): Oleg Okulov’s club has a reputation for defense, but is giving up 93.3 points per game early in the season, last in the League. Krasnoyarsk hasn’t been much better in the Champions League, losing big to Karsiyaka on Thursday, despite 26 points from Anthony Hilliard.
Enisey will try to pound the ball inside against Astana, grab offensive boards and keep the game inside the arc. Defense, of course, is a major question mark. Astana shoots the ball extremely well from beyond the arc and could put up points in a hurry.
Time: 5:30 PM (3:30 MSK)
Place: Molot Sports Palace, Perm, Russia
PARMA (1-5): Perm put on a show last weekend in Moscow, scoring 60 points in the first half against CSKA. Even though the upset bid ultimately fell a little short, PARMA showed it isn’t afraid of anyone. Now the Siberians face another top contender in Lokomotiv, which has only lost once this season between the EuroCup and VTB United League. Don’t be surprised if PARMA tries a run-and-gun approach in this game too. This will be the visitors’ second game in three days, giving PARMA an edge, especially at home.
Lokomotiv-Kuban (4-1): Once again, Lokomotiv is 1st in the League in defense, giving up only 70 points per game. On November 16, Kuban gave up a measly 55 points to Limoges in the EuroCup as the French club shot only 36% from the field. Loko should only get better as Dmitry Kulagin adapts to his new team–Sasa Obradovic has already been very complimentary of the Russian guard’s performance. National team coach Sergei Bazarevich is also impressed by Krasnodar’s play, inviting six Railwaymen to join the national team for November’s World Cup qualifiers.
Sunday, November 19
Time: 4:00 PM (4:00 MSK)
Place: Falcon Club, Minsk, Belarus
Tsmoki-Minsk (3-3): Minsk is 6th in the standings and could move above .500 with a win on Sunday. Despite a surprising 3-3 record, the Belarusians have struggled on offense, averaging a League-worst 67.7 points per game. Avtodor, meanwhile, is averaging nearly 15 points more per outing.
The Dragons did improve in Nizhny Novgorod, lighting up the home team for 93 points in a statement road win. Given Saratov is allowing more than 90 points per game, Tsmoki will try to keep the momentum going.
Avtodor (2-3): Saratov was the first team to shake up the head coaching position, bringing in League veteran Evgeny Pashutin to replace Andrea Mazzon. He wasn’t able to open with a win as Avtodor fell to Nevezis in the Europe Cup and was eliminated from the competition. According to Pashutin, the team played “inconsistently.” At the same time, the loss gives Saratov an opportunity to focus on the VTB League, where the club is currently ranked 7th and would leapfrog the Dragons with a win on Sunday.
Time: 4:00 PM (4:00 MSK)
Place: Sports Palace, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Nizhny Novgorod (1-3): After the loss to Tsmoki-Minsk, Zoran Lukic was blunt about his team’s performance, stating that Nizhny was astronomically far from playing serious basketball. Clearly, his words had the desired effect as Nizhny smacked Karpos by 25 points in the Champions League in its next outing. Alexander Zakharov took over the game, posting a monster double-double: 30 points and 11 rebounds!
Kalev (1-5): Kalev was the last team in the League to record a win, taking down Astana last week. Tallinn was led by new signing Isaiah Briscoe, whose ability to get into the lane rendered the Kazakh defense helpless. Briscoe will take a similar approach on Sunday. Kalev is also one of the best three-point shooting teams in the League (41%) and could stretch Nizhny’s defense, which in turn would open up more space for Briscoe to operate in the paint.
Time: 4:30 PM (4:30 MSK)
Place: BCMO, Khimki, Russia
TV: Match TV, VTB-League.com
Khimki (4-1): Moscow Region was dealt a tough loss in the EuroLeague on Thursday, falling to Maccabi Tel Aviv. Both Georgios Bartzokas and Alexey Shved admitted Khimki played poorly, with turnovers and 3-point shooting the main culprits. Against a disciplined, high-energy team like Zenit, a similar performance could be catastrophic. Of course, the match-up between Russian stars Shved and Sergey Karasev will attract the most attention. Both are in peak condition with Karasev hungry for revenge after last year’s Game 5 loss in the playoff semifinals, where Shved outscored him 28-14.
Zenit (4-1): Statistically, Zenit is last among the League’s Big Five in points scored and points allowed (St. Petersburg is the only team in the group to give up more than 80 points per game). Nonetheless, Vasily Karasev’s club has displayed a lot of toughness. Zenit took down Gran Canaria in the EuroCup earlier in the week, though Karasev admitted his team needs reinforcements, even with the long-awaited return of Ivan Lazarev and Evgeny Voronov (who’s playing with a protective mask).