Russian basketball clubs played regular matches in the Euroleague regular championship. Zenit in St. Petersburg beat German Alba with a score of 75:66 and with seven victories came close to the leaders of the tournament. One of them, namely the Italian Olimpia, was defeated by UNICS in Kazan, creating the main sensation of the tour – 97:71. But CSKA was again defeated, losing to Barcelona on the road – 73:81. Thus, UNICS moved up to ninth place, while the army team dropped to tenth.
The highest chances of winning in the tenth round of the Euroleague regular championship among the Russian participants were, of course, with Zenit, which hosted Alba, which was in 15th place, while the Petersburgers themselves were in sixth position. Although the Berliners were also a threat. Having defeated Crvena Zvezda and Zalgiris on the road, and even fighting Olympiacos, they showed that they would be almost more dangerous away than at home.
Objectively, it was difficult for UNICS and CSKA to count on success. The leader of the Euroleague, Olimpia, who has suffered only one defeat in previous matches, and, taking into account the domestic championship, won 16 out of 17 meetings at the start of the season, UNICS is also gaining momentum, leads the VTB United League, and recently won a promising victory in the Euroleague. over Real Madrid, and yet Ettore Messina’s team was considered the clear favorite.
CSKA was also opposed by one of the leaders of the Euroleague – Barcelona, which, moreover, had the advantage of its site. Yes, the army team managed to interrupt the anti-record streak of five defeats and stabilize the squad, but the Spanish grand looked much more confident at the start of the season and frankly only played unsuccessfully against Maccabi in Tel Aviv.
“Zenith” in the match with “Alba” took time to swing and allowed the defender of the guests Maodo Lo to score five points in a row. This was followed by a spurt of the Petersburgers 8: 0, but Lo once again loaded from a distance, after which the Berliners again took the lead. However, the hosts scored ten points in a row and took the lead at 20:12. However, they quickly lost such an advantage. In the second quarter “Zenith” again came off at a distance of “plus eight”, and after long hits by Conner Frankamp and Jordan Loyd, who by that time had shot 11 points, it seems, finally extinguished the resistance of “Alba”. By the big break, Javier Pascual’s wards won 42:30.
The rival rested and again rushed in pursuit. This time, the Berliners were led by Markus Eriksson, who put eight points in a row in the basket and outstripped Loyd in scoring. The Zenith American did not remain in debt, and the match turned into their shootout with the Swedish sniper Alba. At the beginning of the final quarter Loyd knocked out 21 points, but Alba still didn’t give up, and in their ranks there was another striker – Johannes Thiemann, who contributed 11 points to the team’s piggy bank. Nevertheless, Zenit kept a fairly comfortable distance and entered the end with a plus nine difference – 69:60. However, when Ericsson took a couple of free throws and scored his “twenty”, the hosts began to fuss. The loss of Frankamp resulted in Law’s lane closing the gap to just minus five. But Loyd punished his opponents for a foul just in time, and then distinguished himself from the game, removing all questions about the outcome of the match and showing good personal statistics – 25 points, 5 steals and 6 rebounds with a utility index of 33. 75:66 – Zenit won the seventh championship and strengthened his position in the eight.
Meanwhile, the match in Kazan developed according to a very unexpected scenario. UNICS basketball players were not at all embarrassed by Olimpia’s leadership status. If in the first quarter on the Basket-Hall parquet there was equality, and after it ended it was only 19:17 in favor of the hosts, then gradually their advantage became more and more tangible until it reached some unimaginable size. The Kazan team finished the second period with a score of 44:33, and in the third period they began to tear apart the best defense of the Euroleague.
Before the meeting with UNICS, the Milanese conceded an average of only 67.9 points per game, and then their ring was just a crazy bombardment. Isaiah Kanaan and OJ Mayo showered him with threes. The first one eventually realized six of eight long-range shots, the second – five of nine, and in total the Russian team hit from beyond the arc 14 times with an efficiency of 48.3%. In total, Canaan recorded 22 points, and Mayo – 20. Another 19 were added by John Brown, who raged under the shields along with Tony Jekyri and Jarrell Brantley. At the same time, the other “big” UNICS – Mario Hezonja, was clearly modest. In addition, Andrei Vorontsevich and Janis Timma, who had just signed a contract with the club, were absent.
By the way, Olimpia had almost all the strongest players in the ranks, with the exception of defender Malcolm Delaney. But the same Nicolo Melli, Luigi Datome and Shevon Shields were limited to ten points, Kyle Hines – eight, and Sergio Rodriguez scraped five. In addition to losing in the trucker competition, the Milanese made only 14 rebounds against 34 for UNICS. Their famous mentor Messina looked at what was happening with a face darker than a cloud and, apparently, did not understand what happened to his team. The advantage of Kazan during the fourth period was even “plus 35”, and only at the end of the match they eased the pressure, almost reaching the symbolic figure of 100 points. Although it turned out so effectively – 97:71. UNICS, of course, created a very loud sensation.
Of course, it would be nice if CSKA won a victory in Barcelona. In the arena of “Palau Blaugrana” a very tight fight without free throws immediately began. By the middle of the first quarter, a modest 5: 5 was on the scoreboard, and it ended with a score of 13:13. More or less accurately, the teams hit only free kicks, and did not hit from a distance even once. Six points of Barça defender Rokas Jokubaitis in such a game seemed to be the height of efficiency. In the second period, the opponents continued to act defensively, but the hosts nevertheless added in offense. Bit by bit, they collected their advantage, which first grew to four, and then to six and nine points. Kyle Kurich in the last seconds generally put CSKA in a difficult position, but the center of Muscovites Johannes Vogtmann answered his “three” with his own. And yet the guests let Barcelona go by more than ten points – 27:38, giving Brandon Davis an almost siren goal.
The third quarter started badly for the army team – with another Kurich three-point bomb. But then Vogtmann began to do some miracles, throwing three “three rubles” in a row. Then the German ran into a quick break after the interception and again plunged the ball into the basket from beyond the arc, thus “minus 14” was transformed into “plus two” for CSKA. And then Tornike Shengelia followed in Vogtmann’s footsteps. Thanks to his two straight long-range shots, the red and blues have created a reserve of six points. Moreover, at the end of the period, Nikita Kurbanov and Marius Grigonis brought three points in one attack each, who with his miracle “three”, as they say, shut up the siren. So before the decisive ten-minute game, the army team was in the lead at 60:51.
However, it was clear that the Catalans were not broken, and already in the opening of the fourth period, these “plus nine” melted away. The last time CSKA was leading when Shengelia again shot great from six meters away. And Vogtmann once again uncovered his cannon. They were the best in the army: the German scored 21 points, and the Georgians – 17. But their efforts were not enough. The end of the match took place under the dictation of Barcelona, in which, unlike CSKA, five players were marked by double-digit indicators in the “points scored” column. Well, the guests could not hold back the main star of the evening – the powerful striker Nikola Mirotić. Army center Nikola Milutinov, unfortunately, is still not in the best condition after the injury, and his activity under the shields was clearly not enough. CSKA suffered a fifth defeat in the Euroleague – 73:81 – and dropped to tenth in the standings. On the ninth, which was occupied by Muscovites, UNICS rose.