UNICS Kazan defeated Khimki Moscow Region at home in Game 1 of the semifinals,
UNICS: Raymar Morgan (22 + 7 reb), Errick McCollum (21), Anton Ponkrashov (15 + 5 ast), Maurice Ndour (13 + 8 reb), Jamar Smith (13)
Khimki: Alexey Shved (36 + 6 ast), Janis Timma (23), Jordan Mickey (10 + 8 reb)
UNICS erased a 10-point deficit to open the fourth quarter, rallying for a crucial Game 1 victory in its semifinal series with Khimki.
The White and Green enjoyed a balanced attack as five players scored 13 or more points, led by Raymar Morgan’s 22. But the comeback was the big story. At risk of losing home-court advantage in the opening game, UNICS ripped off a 23-7 run over the first 7:30 of the fourth quarter.
Despite squandering its lead, Khimki nearly came back. Alexey Shved hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left to cut the Moscow Region deficit to one, 92-91. But on the following inbounds play, Stefan Markovic was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul and Kazan guards Anton Ponkrashov and Errick McCollum sealed the victory at the line.
Shved matched his playoff record of 36 points in the defeat.
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But five consecutive missed 3-pointers in the final period helped Kazan keep its rally alive and five points and a steal in the closing minutes from the Russian superstar proved inadequate to take Game 1 on the road.
Khimki led almost the entire contest, outscoring UNICS by five in the first quarter and maintaining that advantage at halftime. The visitors went up by as much as 14 early in the third quarter, 60-46, on a Malcolm Thomas jumper.
But the home team refused to quit, pulling to within 10 at the end of the period before mounting the big fourth-quarter rally.
Game 2 is on Friday in Kazan.
55 – UNICS enjoyed an astounding 55 points from its bench, outscoring the Khimki reserves by 34.
UNICS head coach Dimitris Priftis: “This was a very tough game for UNICS and Khimki. Thank you to my team for showing toughness and believing in a win until the end. Even though Khimki led most of the game, we held the line and stayed calm. Thanks to our defense, we were able to stabilize the game and make it close down the stretch. Khimki shot a lot of 3-pointers. Our opponent took 41 3-pointers and 24 2-pointers. Of course, we need to control that, especially Timma’s shots. And we have to be smarter on offense. We need to try to score under the basket, like we did today. Game 2 will be even tougher for both teams.”
Khimki head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis: “We held the initiative most of the game and led almost the entire time, but got off to a really bad start in the fourth quarter. We lost our lead and made the wrong strategic moves. There are times when you are trying to produce a result and other times when you need to preserve that result. We had every chance to win, but we couldn’t play with the right strategy in the fourth quarter. We just gave it up by a score of 32-17. We started to focus only on 3-pointers, which we had 41 attempts of. I can’t remember a team ever taking that many three’s. Despite some good makes, we need to be more diverse.”