Week Seventeen Recap

UNICS and CSKA keep streaking, Astana adds to Nizhny's misery and more in our Week Seventeen recap.

Lokomotiv-Kuban head coach Georgios Bartzokas said a week ago that VEF's position in the standings did not reflect the team's level of play. Krasnodar had to dig deep for a win in Riga. In Week Seventeen, Janis Gailitis's men traveled to Kazan to take on one of the league's hottest teams.

The Latvians enjoyed a one-point lead at halftime and kept the score close in the second half, despite ultimately falling 82-72. Keith Langford led the home team with 27 points (including 19 in the final 20 minutes).

VEF has played the league's top teams tough (Riga faced CSKA, Khimki, Loko and UNICS in the last six weeks) and now hopes to convert its recent improvement into wins vs. weaker competition. Evegeny Pashutin's men, meanwhile, have won eight straight and sit all alone in 2nd place.

Astana has struggled historically vs. Nizhny Novgorod, 6-1 all-time entering Sunday's game in the Kazakh capital. The two teams had already met once this season with Nizhny picking up a win at home on December 22.

Astana captain Jerry Johnson is now in his 5th season with the club and helped the Kazakhs to its first win vs. Nizhny in December 2011. On Sunday, Johnson led Astana to another victory, posting 17 points and 15 assists as the home team cracked the 100-point barrier for the second time this season (101-79). That snaps a three-game losing streak for Astana and improves their record to 5-10. Nizhny, meanwhile, loses its second straight and drops to 7-8.

Fan of the Week

Zenit and Enisey were both struggling entering Sunday's contest. St. Petersburg had lost three of its last four, while Enisey was on a five-game skid. Something had to give.

Zenit started fast, picking up an eight-point lead in the 1st quarter. Enisey halved the deficit in the 2nd quarter, trailing 36-32 at halftime. The outcome was decided in the 3rd quarter: Zenit held the visitors to 13 points, while scoring 27 to run away with the win (81-64). St. Petersburg is now 9-3 and 4th in the standings.

League newcomers Vita have signed several free agents and brought in a new head coach this month. The team's progress is noticeable, though the win column remains conspiciously empty. Against Krasny Oktyabr, Vita only trailed by one at halftime. Despite getting blown out 29-11 in the 3rd quarter, Tbilisi mounted a furious comeback, cutting the deficit to three in the final seconds (85-82). Vita came up short, but has never been closer to notching its first win. Oktyabr, meanwhile, has won two straight and moves into a tie for 9th place.

MVP of the Week
Vitaly Fridzon. The CSKA bench scored 61 points in a win vs. Bisons. Fridzon led the way for the Army reserves, scoring 26 points (7-11 from the field) to go with three rebounds, three assists, one steal and a 28 efficiency rating. 

CSKA head coach Dimitris Itoudis:
- Life is a battle and if you don't fight, and demonstrate your best qualities, you'll be passed up. With all due respect to Bisons, who were also missing important players, we had completely opposite approaches in the first and second halves, especially on defense. After the break, we battled, rebounded, and only gave up 32 points. That's our target.

... CSKA played against Bisons without Milos Teodosic, Nando De Colo, Pavel Korobkov and Joel Freeland. The team did get Aaron Jackson back from injury, who last played in the league in November. The first half produced a shock result. Bisons started the game on an 8-1 run and led the reigning champs by five at the break. But, like Itoudis said, CSKA was much better in the second half, outscoring Bisons 53-32, to win the game (98-82). CSKA has now won 13 straight in the league.

Stat of the Week
16 - Kalev was badly outrebounded in the loss to Nymburk (46-30).

The Estonians lost the league's leading rebounder in Josh Boone to Khimki prior to Sunday's game. Mario Delas was signed to replace Boone, but he'll need some time to adjust to his new collective. Nymburk dominated the glass and the paint in this game (+22 in points scored in the paint) to win comfortably (99-70).