Week 21 Recap

Egor Vyaltsev's historic performance, blowout wins for Kazan, Krasnodar and Moscow, a thriller in Minsk and more as VTB-League.com looks back on Week 21.

CSKA and Lokomotiv-Kuban had extra motivation for their respective games vs. Nizhny Novgorod and Bisons. The Army Men's only loss this season came against the Volga club. Loko also had a score to settle with the Finns. Georgios Bartzokas's men lost earlier this season in Finland and trailed in the all-time series, 2-1.

CSKA (98-65) and Lokomotiv (95-55) took revenge in convincing fashion and extended their winning streaks. Kuban has now won eight in a row, while the Army Men's streak reaches 17. CSKA will have a chance to tie Khimki for the all-time record on Thursday vs. Astana.

Khimki went crazy on offense in a 128-87 win over Astana.

Let's start with Egor Vyaltsev, who connected on 12 3-pointers (Marius Runkauskas held the previous record of 10) and finished with 40 points. The guard even came within a point of matching Randy Culpepper's single-game scoring record (41 points, set in 2013).

In addition to Vyaltsev's outburst, Khimki set a new league record for assists (46), while Tyrese Rice contributed 17, a new season-best and 4th all-time. Rimas Kurtinaitis's men set two other records, finishing with 128 points (2nd) and shooting 81% from inside the arc (3rd).

The Volga derby between Saratov and Kazan debuted last season and each game had been hard-fought and competitive entering Sunday's contest. But Kazan refused to be slowed down this time. Keith Langford played for the first time in three weeks and the Tatar club gradually pulled away, finishing with a dominant 27-12 advantage in the 4th quarter. The 97-70 victory is Kazan's 12th straight, while Avtodor has now lost four in a row.

Tsmoki had won once in its last five outings, while VEF had dropped five straight. Neither team is currently in contention for the postseason, but the intensity on the court was reminiscent of a playoff game. Riga even held Minsk scoreless for one 8-minute stretch in the 3rd quarter! Most teams would collapse under the pressure, but the Dragons kept battling and took a double-digit lead late in the 4th.

That set the stage for a furious VEF comeback. Trailing by one with a few seconds on the clock, Riga's Francisco Cruz drove the lane and scored on a layup, giving his team the lead. Minsk had a chance to respond, but the shot was short, allowing VEF to escape with a thrilling win (75-74)!

Fan of the Week

Krasny Oktyabr played Enisey on the road in January. Trailing by 19 in the first half, Volgograd managed to storm back for a win. This time around, Kirill Bolshakov's team decided to take a different approach, securing a 52-26 lead at halftime. Ex-Enisey forward Jerry Jefferson was outstanding for Volgograd, finishing with 32 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a 37 efficiency rating.

There would be no 2nd-half comeback from Enisey. Oktyabr picks up its 8th win of the season (92-66) and looks like the best candidate from the bottom half of the standings to make a run at the postseason.

Gintaras Einikis is back in Saratov! The famous Lithuanian center returns to Avtodor, where he played in the late 90s, to serve as assistant head coach. The Saratov fans gave him a warm welcome on Sunday, bringing out a poster that read "Welcome back, Pukas!" (Pukas, Einikis's nickname as a player, means "fluffy" in Lithuanian).

But Einikis's presence on the coaching staff didn't save the team from losing at home to UNICS. Coached by Evgeny Pashutin, Einikis's former Avtodor teammate, Kazan cruised to a big win in the Volga derby.

Stat of the Week
1 - Kalev's margin of victory vs. Vita.

The Georgian newcomers have never been so close to victory, coming up one point short vs. Kalev! Vita gave its Estonian visitors a scare and cut the deficit to one in the final seconds, but it wasn't quite enough. Led by Rolands Freimanis (20 points, 11 rebounds), Kalev secured the 78-77 win. Vita will try again tomorrow to erase the "0" in the win column as they host Bisons on Wednesday.

MVP of the Week
Egor Vyaltsev (Khimki). The guard played one of the best games of his career and set several league records in the process. Vyaltsev finished with 40 points (14-19 from the field, including 12 threes), one rebound, four assists, one steal and a 40 efficiency rating. 

Khimki head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis:
- Vyaltsev has an excellent quality: unlike most players, he never loses confidence when he doesn't play much or doesn't even get in a game. He doesn't hold grudges or ask questions like: "Coach, what am I doing wrong?" Yes, I didn't put him in against Real because I was depending on other players, but that didn't bother Egor. He continued working hard like he always does and waited for his opportunity. Here's the result. He took excellent advantage against Astana.

I've known Vyaltsev for more than 10 years and we worked together in Perm in 2006. He's a player with a winning attitude and I'm very happy that he plays for Khimki.

Play of the Week

Photo of the Week