Week In Review: CSKA Takes 1st Place, Nizhny And VEF Clinch Playoffs

Week In Review: CSKA Takes 1st Place, Nizhny And VEF Clinch Playoffs

The biggest stories from the final week of the regular season.

CSKA wins regular-season title, UNICS finishes 2nd

UNICS enjoyed one the best regular-season campaigns in club history, wrapping up with an impressive 17-point win in St. Petersburg.

But the Army Men still finished in 1st, clinching the title with a blowout 111-76 win over PARMA. Thanks to an insane shooting night (24-28, 86% from inside the arc), CSKA also broke the record for most points in a game this season. Moscow and Krasnodar had shared the previous record of 110, both recorded vs. Avtodor.

Finally, the return of Nando De Colo and Kyle Hines from injury was good news for CSKA ahead of the postseason.

Kazan fought tooth and nail with CSKA all season over 1st place. The two clubs finished with identical records, 22-2, but Moscow enjoyed the tiebreaker thanks to a 2-0 record vs. UNICS. 

Nizhny Novgorod saves the best for last, finishing in 7th place

With one week remaining in the regular season, five teams were in contention for two postseason berths. Nizhny struck the first blow, opening the week with a dramatic 84-82 win over Avtodor. The victory clinched Nizhny’s spot in the playoffs, and eliminated PARMA from the chase, leaving Astana, VEF and Tsmoki-Minsk to battle for the final spot. 

Nizhny kept rolling, stealing a win vs. Lokomotiv-Kuban in the season finale. Even though both teams were locked into their respective seeds, the game was competitive as Nizhny erased a big 3rd-quarter deficit to win in overtime. Zoran Lukic’s men shot 15-32 from downtown in the victory, their first against a Top-3 opponent this season. Nizhny takes on Kazan in a 2-7 quarterfinal match-up. 

Avtodor finishes 5th, Astana misses postseason

Astana kept its postseason hopes alive until the very end. In order to make the playoffs, the Kazakh champs needed to win at home vs. Avtodor and hope for a Tsmoki loss in St. Petersburg. Zenit did its part, taking down the Belarusians, but Astana was unable to solve Avtodor and another outstanding performance from Coty Clarke. 

The game vs. Saratov was a microcosm of Astana’s entire season. Mikhail Karpenko’s team hung around for three quarters, but shot a measly 7-23 from the free-throw line and got outscored 30-19 in the 4th quarter. Astana simply wasn’t consistent or cohesive enough in 2017-18. The club began the season with a 2-9 record, before promoting Karpenko to head coach. The team responded with a 4-1 run in the winter, but struggled the rest of the way, missing a huge chance on March 18, when they let Nizhny Novgorod erase a five-point deficit in the final seven seconds, capped by Artem Komolov’s game-winning buzzer-beater. Astana finishes the season in 10th place. 

Avtodor also experienced a coaching change in 2017-18. Evgeny Pashutin didn’t mess with Saratov’s signature style, encouraging an up-tempo offense that brought results. Saratov enjoyed its best regular-season campaign in club history (14-10). After beating out Khimki–one of the League’s preseason favorites–for 5th place, Avtodor will try to take down Zenit in the quarterfinals.  

Tsmoki-Minsk misses opportunity in St. Petersburg, VEF sneaks into 8th

As noted above, this season featured the most competitive playoff chase in League history with the final spot decided in the final game of the season. There were two teams remaining when Tsmoki-Minsk took the court in St. Petersburg. The Belarusians needed a win to finish 8th, otherwise VEF made it through. Though Zenit was already locked into 4th place, the Russians extinguished a 4th-quarter Tsmoki rally to secure an 83-76 win and squash the visitors’ postseason hopes.

Tsmoki still enjoyed its best season ever in the VTB United League, finishing in the Top 10 for the first time in seven seasons, one win shy of the postseason.

VEF deserves enormous respect. After parting ways with several stars over the summer, Riga got off to a catastrophic 1-10 start. But the Latvians didn’t panic, adding several talented players along the way (Ken Brown, Kaspars Berzins, Paul Carter) to close out the season with a 7-6 mark, earning the title of the League’s top non-Russian team. 

The Playoffs are here

Eight teams move onto the Playoffs: CSKA, UNICS, Lokomotiv-Kuban, Zenit, Avtodor, Khimki, Nizhny Novgorod and VEF. Time to print your brackets! 

Here are the quarterfinal match-ups:


UNICS – Nizhny Novgorod

Lokomotiv-Kuban – Khimki

Zenit – Avtodor

The quarterfinals feature a best-of-five series with a 1-2-2 format (Game 1 is played at the higher-ranked team’s arena). The Playoffs open in Kazan and Krasnodar on May 23. 

The winners will advance to the Final Four, which will be held June 8-10 in Moscow at the VTB Ice Palace.