Week 24 Recap

Big wins for CSKA and Lokomotiv-Kuban, Nymburk stays on track for the postseason and more in VTB-League.com's Week 24 recap.

1st Place
UNICS and CSKA battled for 1st place in the Tatar capital. Kazan was coming off a defeat to Zielona Gura and elimination from the Eurocup and looked out of sorts in the opening period, giving up 28 points and a 17-point lead to the visiting Army Men. The home team played better the rest of the way, but couldn't erase its early deficit, falling to a 100-89 defeat.

With the win, CSKA improves its grip on 1st place, opening up a two-and-a-half game lead on Kazan. UNICS, meanwhile, misses an opportunity to bump the Army Men from the top spot in the standings and sees its 14-game winning streak come to an end.

Lokomotiv-Kuban also hosted Khimki in another top-5 showdown. Prior to the game, EuroBasket champion Nikita Morgunov named Loko the VTB United League's best team at the moment. Krasnodar brought an 11-game winning streak into the contest, including a breakthrough win in Moscow vs. CSKA and an impressive road win in the Euroleague vs. Anadolu Efes.

The Railwaymen kept rolling against Khimki, jumping out to an eight-point lead in the opening period and holding on for a 94-81 win. With the victory, Kuban moves within two games of 2nd-place UNICS.

CSKA got an important win in Kazan, but lost captain Viktor Khryapa to an injury. The big man broke a finger on his left hand during the 2nd quarter and will be out indefinitely.

This is the second time Khryapa has suffered a fracture on his left hand this season. The first occurred in November during a Euroleague game, forcing Khryapa to miss two months. Since returning, he had been in terrific form, picking up the league's Top Russian Player award in February.

Warming Up
The 1st quarter in St. Petersburg between Zenit and Bisons was closely contested. But once Kaspars Berzins entered the game, the momentum began to swing heavily toward the home team. Berzins was on fire, sparking Zenit to a dominant 2nd quarter (34-14) and Vasily Karasev's club went on to win handily, 106-73.

Berzins shot 9-12 from the field (including five 3-pointers), scoring 23 points and grabbing five rebounds for a team-high 26 efficiency rating. Most impressively, he only needed 15 minutes on the court to do his damage.

Fan of the Week

Déjà Vu
"The plotline of this game was simply copied and pasted from our meeting a week ago." That's what Kalev head coach Alar Varrak said after his team's visit to Nizhny Novgorod. On February 28, the Baltic club battled Nizhny for three quarters, but couldn't seal the deal in the final period. The return game in Nizhny was virtually identical, with the home team even winning by the same margin of 14 (80-66).

Tsmoki and Astana met in Minsk. The Belarusian club has struggled at home, entering the contest with a 2-7 record, while the Kazakhs had only won once on the road (1-9). Something had to give on Saturday.

Not surprisingly, the game was decided in the final minutes. After letting Astana back into the contest, Minsk locked down defensively in the 4th quarter to pull out an 87-83 win. Tsmoki wins its third game at home and 7th of the season, improving to 10th in the standings.

Led by David Kennedy, Enisey picked up a 13-point lead in the 1st quarter vs. Vita (32-19). Playing in the Georgian city of Kutaisi, the two teams were very evenly matched over the next three periods (17-17, 20-17, 16-19), allowing Krasnoyarsk to hold on for an important road win, 85-72. Kennedy finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Despite the loss, Vita played well in Kutaisi, which hosted its 1st-ever VTB United League contest.

Stat of the Week
48 - Nymburk's bench outscored Krasny Oktyabr's bench by 48, 72-24.

Not surprisingly, the Czechs won the game easily (103-76). It was a very important contest for both teams. Oktyabr needed a win to put pressure on Nymburk for the final playoff spot, while the Czechs were looking to stay even with Nizhny Novgorod in 6th place.
Krasny Oktyabr's playoff hopes took a serious hit with the loss, dropping the club 3.5 games behind 8th-place Avtodor.

MVP of the Week
Victor Claver (Lokomotiv-Kuban). Every basket was huge in the Lokomotiv - Khimki showdown and Claver delivered, shooting 9-11 from the field for 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds and three blocks.

Lokomotiv-Kuban president Andrey Vedishchev:
- We have a chance to battle for 2nd place in the regular season. The wins over CSKA and Khimki helped us get back on track after an unlucky start to the season. Now everything is in our hands. The team is playing extremely well. Give credit to the coaching staff. Despite a tough schedule and travel, we've maintained our concentration and freshness. I can see that we are becoming more and more confident in ourselves each game. I don't think there's anyone we can't beat right now. 

Play of the Week

Photo of the Week