Semifinals Recap

VTB-League.com looks back on the semifinals, highlighting the biggest stars and most exciting moments.

CSKA - Khimki: Renewal

Series: 3-0

Top Scorers:
CSKA - Milos Teodosic (20.3 points), Khimki - Alexey Shved (20.0 points)

Coming off a thrilling, but exhausting triumph in the Euroleague Final Four, many wondered how CSKA would respond in the VTB United League semifinals. Khimki tried to jump on the reigning champs in Game 1, outrebounding CSKA 9-1 on the offensive glass and knocking down nine 3-pointers in the first half. Playing just four days after the championship game in Berlin, the Army Men survived the onslaught thanks to its defense, a deep rotation and inspired play from Milos Teodosic.

After three competitive quarters, the Army Men tightened the screws in the 4th, limiting Khimki to two points in the first five minutes. Led by Teodosic, CSKA went on to win by three, 86-83, and seize the early momentum in the series.

The first game proved quite decisive. CSKA picked up where it left off in Game 2, outhustling Khimki on the glass and making life miserable for the visitors on offense. Thanks to extreme balance on offense (seven different players scored 10 or more points), the Army Men had little trouble securing a 99-87 win and going up 2-0 in the best-of-five series.

Game 3 had much in common with Game 1. Once again, Moscow Region played CSKA tight, relying heavily on its perimeter shooting. CSKA was led by Teodosic and a resurgent Nando De Colo, with the outcome going down to the final minutes. Just like Game 1, Khimki trailed in the closing seconds, but couldn't foul in time, allowing the Army Men to score a crucial layup and clinch the series-ending win (95-92).

Turning Point
"I think the turning point in this series was Game 1, which we didn't play at 100%. If that had happened, everything may have turned out differently," Dusko Ivanovic said after Game 3. Despite the competitive nature of Game 3, it was hard to shake the feeling that CSKA had returned to full strength and would not let the series slip away. Khimki couldn't take advantage of a fatigued CSKA squad in Game 1 and never recovered, allowing the Army Men to enjoy a three-game sweep and move on to the playoff finals.

CSKA's depth. The Army Men compensated for Final Four fatigue and the absence of Joel Freeland, Cory Higgins and Nikita Kurbanov (Game 3) with a deep bench. Itoudis used at least 11 players in each game, with seven different men scoring in double digits in Game 2.

Milos Teodosic. Nando De Colo was named 2015-16 Euroleague MVP and also picked up the Final Four MVP. But it was all Teodosic in the VTB United League semifinals. Better rested, perhaps, than his French teammate, Teodosic spearheaded CSKA's attack and served as a true leader on the court, rallying his men whenever necesssary.

Series Stat
40 - Khimki's 3-point percentage.

"Live and die with the 3-pointer" - that was Khimki's mantra in the 2016 postseason. 33 combined 3-pointers in Games 1 and 2 vs. Lokomotiv helped Moscow Region advance to the semis. Khimki's snipers had some success against the Army Men, and occasionally lit up the CSKA defense, but the perimeter shooting suffered in crunch-time, unable to deliver a win.

CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis after Game 1:
- First of all, I want to thank the fans. They came to support us today and that was very important for us. This game was a game of energy, which is what we were lacking today. There are reasons for that and we all know about them. In these conditions, the fans gave us a push, an extra impulse.

During the first half, we more reacted to what was happening, rather than initiating. We changed our approach in the 3rd and 4th quarters, relying on our defense and heart. We used 11 men, which was very necessary. Congratulations to the team on its first win. We really want to be in the finals and defend our title. I see enormous desire in the players' eyes and every movement.

Hot Play


UNICS - Zenit: Return

Series: 3-2

Top Scorers:
UNICS - Quino Colom (23.4 points), Zenit - Ryan Toolson (17.7 points)

Game 1 also proved extremely important in the second semifinal series. The game featured two completely different halves. Zenit got everything to work in the first, leading by as much as 18. But Ryan Toolson was unable to play in the second and UNICS's guard duo of Keith Langford and Quino Colom took over. Langford's 17-point 3rd quarter got Kazan back in the game, while Colom finished with 26 points, six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and the game-winning three points that helped Kazan claw back from a nine-point deficit with a minute to play (94-93).

Give Zenit credit: despite playing without Toolson in Game 2, the visitors forced another dramatic finish. Unfortunately for St. Petersburg, UNICS was clutch at the free-throw line in the late going (6-6), while a field goal from Kostas Kaimakoglou and Janis Timma miss sealed the deal, allowing UNICS to come out on top by six, 97-91.

Kazan almost completed another miraculous comeback in Game 3. UNICS trimmed a 20-point halftime deficit to two, but Toolson and Pushkov refused to lose, helping Zenit pull away in the 4th for an 82-67 win.

Two days later, Zenit needed its own furious rally to keep the series alive, returning from a 15-point hole in the 3rd quarter to secure the Game 4 win, 85-82. A 10-1 run in the final period was the difference for St. Petersburg, which forced a decisive Game 5 in Kazan.

The most competitive series of the 2016 playoffs finished where it began, at the Basket Hall in Kazan. In the end, UNICS's home-court advantage could not be overcome. As was often the case, the 3rd quarter proved decisive. UNICS won the period by a 28-14 margin in Game 5, turning a close game into a blowout. The Tatar club went on to win, 79-70, advancing to the playoff finals for the first time in four years, in addition to earning a berth in next season's Euroleague. Zenit, meanwhile, finishes 3rd in just its second season.

Turning Point
There were several shocking comebacks in the series, including Kazan's return in Game 1, Zenit's gritty wins at home in Games 3 and 4 and Kazan's dominant second half in Game 5, which allowed Evgeny Pashutin's men to move on to the finals.

Home-court advantage. The series went the distance, needing five games, with UNICS winning all three games at home.

Keith Langford and Quino Colom. While Zenit did a good job of moving the ball on offense and spreading out the scoring, Kazan had no problem going to its leaders again and again. Langford and Colom were the alpha and the omega of the Kazan attack, putting the team on their backs to deliver a berth in the Euroleague next season and showdown with CSKA in the playoff finals.

Series Stat
5 - number of games in the most exciting and competitive series of the 2016 postseason thus far.

Zenit head coach Vasily Karasev after Game 5:
- We finished the season today. I think it was a success. We did everything we could against UNICS in Game 5. Clearly, today wasn't our day. It's still early for us to be in the Euroleague. I'll say it again, I don't have anything critical to say to my players. They battled to the end, but it was extremely tough to win today.

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Semifinals MVP

Quino Colom (UNICS).

Colom formed a deadly one-two punch with Langford: scoring, running the offense and taking games over down the stretch to earn the series MVP. He averaged 23.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.8 steals and a 23.4 efficiency rating in five games. Meanwhile, his three-point play at the end of Game 1 may have been the biggest play of the entire series.