The biggest stories from the past seven days in the League.
Zenit storms back, Loko wins
“Never as a fan, player or coach have I seen a team play so differently in two halves.”
Loko coach Sasa Obradovic, of course, was talking about his team. But we’re more interested in Zenit, which turned on the jets in the second half to erase a 20-point deficit and even take the lead early in the 4th quarter. But there was time for one more comeback.
Krasnodar bounced back, led by Mardy Collins, who did his best Michael Jordan impression backing down Zenit’s guards to hit several huge shots, including the final two points of the game that gave Loko a three-point lead.
Thanks to the win over Zenit, Krasnodar takes over sole possession of 2nd place and can begin preparing for a showdown with 1st-place CSKA in early January.
PARMA moves into playoff spot
When he got the job in Perm, Nikolajs Mazurs promised he would take the team to the postseason in his first season. That raised a few eyebrows at the time, but no one’s doubting him now. Thanks to Sunday’s win in Nizhny Novgorod against another playoff hopeful, the Siberian club finishes the 2017 season in 8th place. Let’s say it again: PARMA would make the playoffs if the season ended today.
Overtime in Astana. UNICS survives in Kazakhstan
UNICS was on the brink of disaster in Astana. The home team erased a 22-point second-half deficit and had a chance to win the game on the final possession, but Justin Carter only made one of two free throws, forcing overtime. During the extra period, UNICS’s stars took over: Quino Colom scored all five of his points in overtime, while Anton Ponkrashov knocked down two 3-pointers to go with an important block. Though this wasn’t Kazan’s finest performance, the Tatar club fully deserves to finish the first half of the season in 3rd place, only a half game behind Lokomotiv-Kuban.
Three-point explosion in Tallinn
Kalev and VEF banked on three-point shooting, combining for 20 in the first half, a new League record! The pace slowed a bit in the second half, but the two teams still combined for 31 3-pointers, only one less than the record set by Lokomotiv-Kuban and Vita in the 2015-16 season. Riga also knocked down a League-best 19 3-pointers. Amazingly, that wasn’t enough. Kalev had a little more balance on offense and finished the game on a 6-0 run to secure the win. With the victory, Kalev passes VEF in the standings and moves within a game of 8th place.
Kalev, VEF, and their 3-point shots record in the Q1. 13 from beyond the arch! 💪 pic.twitter.com/ZoYt8guBFp
— VTB United League (@VTBUL) December 17, 2017
New Year’s shopping
Teams around the League are looking forward to the New Year’s break, but management is staying busy. VEF signed the experienced, talented Kaspars Berzins, who will be expected to be a leader on the team in 2018.
Thanks to Avtodor, the VTB League now has a Shaq. No, not the NBA legend, but McKissic is pretty cool too. He played in the Turkish league all-star game last season and started the year at Gran Canaria, before crossing wires with the coach.
Martins Meiers left UNICS, but won’t remain without work for long. The Latvian national team center is expected to sign with another Russian team soon. To be continued…