CSKA hosted Zenit in the third round of the Euroleague regular season. The army team won the first home match of this Euroseason with a score of 77:67. Tornike Shengelia became the best player of the match with 33 points. UNICS met with Bayern in Kazan and also won – 73:70.
Zenit was a little unlucky with the regular season calendar. Petersburgers had to start the tournament with three away matches in a row. But most of this guest tour “Zenith” has overcome successfully. In the first round, UNICS was beaten, in the second the rival was even more uncompromising – Zalgiris. However, with all due respect to the Kazan and Kaunas teams, unlike CSKA, they cannot be classified as grandees. Yes, the army team had an uncertain start in the tournament, losing to Milan in the first match, but already in the next game they completely rehabilitated themselves, taking over the reigning Euroleague champion Anadolu Efes in Istanbul, thus showing that they were in excellent shape. By the way, CSKA was convincing in the VTB United League championship and won all three matches. But Zenit managed to surprise unpleasantly, losing to Astana on its site. Note also that Zenit and CSKA have crossed twice this fall: in the Kondrashin-Belov Cup final, and then in the decisive VTB United League Super Cup match. In the first case Zenit was stronger, in the second – CSKA.
Moreover, both matches were of a fighting nature, so both Zenit and CSKA approached the first official meeting of the season knowing perfectly well what to expect from each other. At least, it was quite logical to think so.
However, “Zenith” surprised. The guests seemed to deliberately ignore Tornike Shengelia, who over and over again found himself under the shield in amazing solitude. As a result, only a little more than five minutes passed, and CSKA was already leading by 14 points. A discouraging start for the guests, who seemed to be in a state that looked like a huge knockdown. But Zenit head coach Xavi Pascual still managed to bring his players to their senses step by step. His labors, however, turned out to be in vain in the end. However, this is neither his fault nor his charges. It was just Shengelia day. The Georgian “big” played somehow very inspired. You could even say that he was unstoppable. Indeed, in just three quarters, Shengelia sketched 30 points. At the same time, the entire CSKA scored 59 points by that time. In the last quarter, Shengelia slowed down, scored only three points, but still made a personal record for Euroleague matches and made a decisive contribution to the victory of CSKA – 77:67.
UNICS, which started the season unsuccessfully (Kazan, as already mentioned, lost to Zenit, and then lost to Monaco), put itself in a difficult position. Yes, the season is still ahead, but a disastrous start often has such a demoralizing effect on the teams that after a series of misfires at the start, they no longer manage to rectify the situation. The same UNICS in the 2016/17 season began with four defeats in a row and eventually finished the regular season in the penultimate place. So Kazan could not afford another defeat, especially a home defeat, but they were not so far from it.
Against Bayern, UNICS played two completely different halves of the meeting.
In the first, Velimir Perasovich’s team did not succeed in almost anything, and at the moment the guests’ lead reached 16 points. But after the break, UNICS changed. Isaiah Kanan played in full force (the most productive player of the meeting, on his account 21 points), Mario Hezonya was very useful, well, two Brauns – Lorenzo and John at times played as if they had not only a common surname, but also a mind – so they acted harmoniously. As a result, UNICS quickly turned the tide of the confrontation and won with a score of 73:70. Although the score could have been higher, if the hosts were a little more accurate at the end of the meeting.