Required Viewing: April 17-18

Required Viewing: April 17-18

Kalev plays Zenit, Nizhny Novgorod hosts Khimki, UNICS takes on PARMA.

Wednesday, April 17

Kalev Estonia – Zenit Russia

Time: 7:00 PM (7:00 MSK)
Place: Kalevi Spordihall, Tallinn, Estonia

Kalev: Officially, Kalev hasn’t clinched a playoff spot yet, but they are in the best position of the three contenders for 8th place. Kalev only needs one win in the final three games, which will all be played at home. Donaldas Kairys’ men almost certainly want to clinch today. But they need to take down a motivated Zenit squad, against whom Kalev is winless in five seasons.

Zenit: The trip to Tallinn is not only an opportunity to pick up a 10th-straight win vs. the Estonians, it would also keep Astana at arm’s length in the race for 5th place. Plus, Zenit still has a shot at Lokomotiv for 4th place and home-court advantage in the playoffs.

Despite the history between these two teams, nothing will come easy on Wednesday. Kalev is playing at a high level, as evidenced by the record 30-point win over PARMA. St. Petersburg, meanwhile, has lost two in a row. Plus, Zenit will be without star Jalen Reynolds for two games, who’s been suspended for his confrontation with Evgeny Kolesnikov in the most recent game with UNICS.

Nizhny Novgorod Russia – Khimki Russia

Time: 7:00 PM (7:00 MSK)
Place: Sports Palace, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
TV: Match! Strana

Nizhny Novgorod: The Volga club has clinched a playoff spot, but it’s still early to relax. Zoran Lukic’s men could move up in the standings or fall to 8th. Unfortunately, injuries continue to plague Nizhny Novgorod: Both Ivan Strebkov and Kendrick Perry are out for the rest of the season. Lukic has his work cut out for him, but there has been a silver lining. 21-year-old Georgy Zhbanov is taking advantage of the extra playing time, leading the team vs. CSKA and putting up 10 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in the win over Avtodor. 

Khimki: Six straight wins have nearly clinched 3rd place in the standings and given Moscow Region at least a theoretical chance of finishing ahead of 2nd-place UNICS. But expecting Kazan to lose three in a row to PARMA, Avtodor and Zielona Gora would be silly, so Rimas Kurtinaitis and co. are focused on defending 3rd place. Nizhny Novgorod has always given Khimki trouble, winning six of their 14 meetings. Nizhny won the most recent game, too, but in much different circumstances. The Volga club was playing with a healthy roster, whereas Khimki was missing both Alexey Shved and Janis Timma, who have been instrumental in the team’s resurgence this spring. Now the roles have been reversed as Nizhny tries to overcome adversity and pull an upset. 

Thursday, April 18

UNICS Russia – PARMA Russia

Time: 7:00 PM (7:00 MSK)
Place: Basket Hall, Kazan, Russia

UNICS: Kazan needed four straight wins to clinch the regular-season title. The most difficult opponent, Zenit, has already been vanquished, making UNICS the odds-on favorite to finish in 1st. As long as the Tatar club can take of business vs. three teams outside the playoff zone, the #1 seed is theirs. The biggest challenge for Dimitris Priftis may be getting his men not to underestimate the competition. Because of a suspension, Kazan guard Evgeny Kolesnikov will not be available vs. PARMA: He was penalized for his confrontation with Jalen Reynolds in the most recent game vs. Zenit.

PARMA: Everything would be a lot easier for UNICS, if not for the loss to PARMA in December. One of the biggest upsets of the season took place in Perm as Kodi Justice’s game-winning 3-pointer helped Ural deal a loss to Kazan. That was only UNICS’s second defeat of the season. Since then, the two teams have gone separate directions. PARMA fired its coach and is stuck in second-to-last place, whereas UNICS is now the favorite to finish in 1st place. Kodi Justice, who hit the game-winning shot, has also left Perm. He’s now playing for Zielona Gora, where he’ll try to ruin Kazan’s 1st-place hopes on the final day of the regular season.