Seven regular season games are scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Saturday, October 27
VEF Latvia – Zenit Russia
Time: 3:00 PM (3:00 MSK)
Place: Olimpic Sport Center, Riga, Latvia
VEF: These two teams are both stuck in the cellar, though VEF has three setbacks to Zenit’s two. Of course, the St. Petersburg also club boasts significantly more talent, when everyone is available, though Vasily Karasev has been playing with a shortened rotation to start the season. Since joining the League, Zenit has dominated this match-up, posting a perfect 11-0 record.
Zenit: After the shocking setback in Astana, St. Petersburg slumped to 13th in the standings. But there are some reasons for optimism. Sergey Karasev returned for this week’s EuroCup game vs. Valencia, leading Zenit to victory with 26 points, while teammate Brandon Jennings posted a double-double (12 points and 11 assists).
Nizhny Novgorod Russia – Lokomotiv-Kuban Russia
Time: 5:00 PM (5:00 MSK)
Place: Sports Palace, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
NIzhny Novgorod: Zoran Lukic’s men have looked more and more confident each time out. They were rewarded in the game vs. Tsmoki, securing their first win of the season. Now they take on one of the League’s contenders. But Nizhny Novgorod is used to being an underdog: Last spring, the Volga club stormed back from a 17-point deficit in the final game of the season to shock Krasnodar. Unfortunately for Lukic, his primary point guard Kendrick Perry can’t play on Saturday and is expected to miss up to a month.
Lokomotiv-Kuban: After suffering a setback in Kazan, Kuban bounced back by crushing VEF and escaping vs. Cedevita in the EuroCup. Loko led by as many as 23 points, before allowing Cedevita to erase the deficit and even briefly surge in front. Sasa Obradovic may want to show his men the tape from the loss to Nizhny in May to prevent another Volga upset.
Kalev Estonia – Avtodor Russia
Time: 5:00 PM (5:00 MSK)
Place: Saku Suurhall, Tallinn, Estonia
Kalev: Tallinn began the season with a win in Nizhny Novgorod, before dropping two in a row to CSKA and Khimki. Kalev should be competitive vs. visiting Avtodor. Even Khimki, despite playing without Alexey Shved, scored only 80 points on the Estonians (even with Donaldas Kairys lamenting that his team was too soft). If they can slow Avtodor’s tempo from the outset, the visitors may struggle to adjust.
Avtodor: Saratov set a season high for points, dropping 106 on Enisey last weekend. Remarkably, 100 of the team’s 106 points were scored by five players (Viktor Zaryazhko added the remaining six points). The lack of a rotation could be an issue, especially if Kalev can shut down one or two of the Russian club’s leaders. Avtodor’s bench was also largely ineffective in the first game of the season, scoring 16 vs. UNICS.
Tsmoki-Minsk Belarus – Enisey Russia
Time: 5:30 PM (5:30 MSK)
Place: Falcon Club, Minsk, Belarus
Tsmoki-Minsk: The Dragons are finishing up a disastrous four-game home stand and won’t play in Minsk again until December. Minsk is in a hole at 0-3, despite not playing any of the League’s contenders, making Saturday’s game virtually a must-win. The Belarusians have no trouble scoring, but the offense so far has been overly reliant on one-on-one action. As a result, Aliaksandr Krutsikau’s squad is last in the League in assists (10.7) and first in turnovers (15.3). Enisey’s defense is likely salivating at the prospect.
Enisey: The Siberians scored a season-high 91 points vs. Avtodor, but gave up 106 in response, with coach Oleg Okulov saying after the game he wasn’t able to stop his team from trying to run-and-gun with the visitors. Against a team like Tsmoki, which prefers to slow the tempo, Enisey will likely feel much more comfortable.
Sunday, October 28
Khimki Russia – UNICS Russia
Time: 3:00 PM (3:00 MSK)
Place: BCMO, Khimki, Russia
TV: Match! Nash Sport, VTB-League.com
Khimki: This is the game of the week, and perhaps the biggest game of autumn. Both teams have flexed their muscles to begin the season and rank in the top three. Khimki may have a little more motivation than UNICS, thanks to playing at home and trying to compensate for four straight losses in the EuroLeague. Even though Alexey Shved is back, Georgios Bartzokas was without key big man Anthony Gill in the game vs. Milan.
UNICS: Kazan also did not have the best week in Europe, losing to Unicaja on the road. They are still on top of their group in the EuroCup; however, plus they have an extra day of rest between games. These two teams have been very competitive over the years, with Khimki winning nine times and UNICS seven. The clubs traded narrow victories a season ago (+5 for Khimki, +3 for Kazan), which means we should expect another well-played, hotly-contested game on Sunday.
Monday, October 29
CSKA Russia – PARMA Russia
Time: 7:00 PM (7:00 MSK)
Place: USH CSKA, Moscow, Russia
CSKA: Moscow has won four straight to open the season and shares 1st place with Khimki. CSKA is also crushing in the EuroLeague, where they are undefeated. The Army Men go on the road Friday to Gran Canaria for another EuroLeague test, but Kyle Hines recently said the team is completely prepared for the difficult schedule. Plus, Mikhail Kulagin is finally healthy, providing valuable minutes in the win over Kalev, which makes CSKA even deeper.
PARMA: Perm nearly pulled the upset last season, taking the Army Men down to the wire in Moscow. CSKA star Nando De Colo bailed out the champions, scoring a career-high 34 points. With the rivalry between these cities dating back to the days of Ural-Great, expect PARMA to be fired up on Monday. Perm certainly impressed a week ago vs. Khimki, despite committing some silly mistakes down the stretch which cost them a shot at victory.
Zielona Gora Poland – Astana Kazakhstan
Time: 8:00 PM (9:00 MSK)
Place: CRS Hala Zielona Gora, Zielona Gora, Poland
Zielona Gora: The League newcomers have shown mixed results so far, securing a convincing win vs. Tsmoki before getting blown out by UNICS. Nonetheless, the Poles are a respectable 1-1 and would love to return above .500 with a win in their home debut. The Greens are especially good at taking care of the ball (fewest turnovers in the League!) and knocking down 3-pointers at a 40%+ clip, where they rank second.
Astana: The Kazakh club will be riding high from the upset win vs. Zenit, especially the way they bounced back from a 19-point second-half deficit to stun the visitors. Anthony Clemmons, who heard MVP chants during the game with Zenit, could pose a lot of problems for Zielona Gora’s veteran defenders.