The biggest stories from the past seven days in the League.
CSKA remains unbeaten
UNICS and CSKA battled for the unofficial title of League’s top team over the first two months of the season. Both clubs were undefeated entering the showdown in Kazan with a chance to take over sole possession of 1st place.
The Army Men controlled the game from start to finish. CSKA won each quarter, never gave up any big runs and showed no nerves even when the score was tied. Moscow only lost the rebounding battle, but was able to compensate in other facets of the game. Sergio Rodriguez put the exclamation mark on CSKA’s victory. Entering the 4th quarter with two points, he knocked down four triples over the final 10 minutes to guarantee a double-digit road win.
In the biggest story of the week, CSKA remains undefeated and in sole possession of 1st place. UNICS suffers its first defeat.
Khimki battles Nizhny, Shved duels Jelovac
Years ago, Nizhny Novgorod swept Khimki in the quarterfinals en route a spot in the finals. Circumstances have changed, with Khimki playing in the EuroLeague this season and a heavy favorite entering Sunday’s game. Nizhny Novgorod, on the other hand, would simply love to make the playoffs. But you wouldn’t have known that from the action on the court. Zoran Lukic returned as head coach this season in Nizhny Novgorod and almost led his men to another classic upset of the Yellow-Blues.
Though he almost went from hero to goat, Alexey Shved was ultimately the star. Khimki was on the precipice of defeat, both in regulation and overtime thanks to Shved’s mistakes, while at the other end, Stefan Jelovac did everything possible to keep Nizhny in the game. Shved would ultimately win the duel, outscoring Jelovac 34-32 (both finished with career highs in points), and made up for a crucial turnover in the 4th quarter with this clutch shot.
Two misses at the free-throw line from Shved with Khimki clinging to an 88-87 lead in the final seconds of overtime were erased by Tyler Honeycutt’s offensive rebound. Nizhny Novgorod almost got it done, but ultimately left Moscow Region empty-handed. No one likes moral victories, but Lukic and co. turned a lot of heads with their near-win on sunday.
Dragons take down Knights
Chris Czerapowicz probably watched the game in Khimki. Playing against Kalev, Tsmoki’s leader looked a lot like Shved. With the game tied and the clock ticking down, Czerapowicz missed two of three free throws, then turned around and drained the decisive 3-pointer with only eight seconds left to play. That gave Tsmoki the win in a back-and-forth battle, with numerous lead changes and ties coming in the 4th quarter.
Creative offense in Saratov
Two of the League’s highest-tempo teams met in Saratov, led by two former Russian national team coaches: Evgeny Pashutin and Vasily Karasev. Avtodor’s new boss admitted recently that “fast-paced basketball was in his blood.” But his opponent has made a career out of coaching up-tempo ball and has much more experience. The two teams combined for 199 points, with Zenit scoring 107 in a comfortable win.
Ian Hummer’s vicious dunk after a wild combination from Micah Downs and Branden Frazier served as the consolation prize for the Kristall Palace fans.
Krasnodar’s iron wall
Lokomotiv-Kuban has always been known for its unique approach. This week was no exception. With most games featuring explosive offense and big scorelines, Krasnodar quietly took care of business with Kazakhstan thanks to unbelievable defense.
Beginning midway through the 2nd quarter, Lokomotiv only allowed 22 points over the final 25 minutes. Astana managed a measly five points in the 4th quarter and 50 points overall. That’s a new season-worst for points in the League.