Game of the Week. Who’s starting 3-0 – Vilnius or Kazan? 27  october  2013

VTB United League
Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania) hosts UNICS (Russia) in Vilnius in the biggest game of Week 3 in the VTB United League regular season.
Lietuvos Rytas, 2013 Lithuanian league runners-up
UNICS, 2013 VTB United League quarterfinalists

Siemens Arena (capacity 11,000), Vilnius, Lithuania

October 27, 2013, 14:00 (16:00 MSK)

Rossiya 2, Lietuvos Rytas TV,

Face to Face
The modern history between Lietuvos Rytas and UNICS dates back to 1997, when they faced off in the now-defunct Korać Cup. Paired together in Group C, the club from Vilnius won twice (coincidently, by a score of 87-75 both times), before advancing to the next round where they were eliminated. It would be 13 years before the two teams would face off again…

The competition was reborn in the VTB United League, where Lietuvos Rytas and UNICS have twice been drawn together in the same group. In the 2010/2011 season, the teams were evenly matched, making for two exciting encounters. This time around, UNICS won twice, by just two points both times – 87-85 and 66-64. That success helped UNICS qualify for the playoffs at the expense of Lietuvos Rytas and Kazan went on to take 3rd in the postseason. Last season, the clubs traded home victories (74-68 in Kazan and 87-80 in Vilnius). While UNICS reached the playoff quarterfinals, Lietuvos Rytas was left on the outside looking in once again.

Lietuvos Rytas was featured here last week as their Krasnodar encounter with Lokomotiv-Kuban was the VTB United League’s first showdown between title favorites. The matchup on Sunday in Vilnius will be just the second contest between League favorites, at least on paper.

The Lithuanians have opened the season with two impressive road wins in Russia – Nizhny Novgorod and Lokomotiv-Kuban are among the teams in Group A that are gunning to top the group standings. The Red and Blacks would love to topple another Russian club and put their stamp on the group early. Finally playing at home will give Dirk Bauermann’s squad even more enthusiasm and desire.

UNICS, for its part, also won twice to start the season – both times at the Basket Hall. Kazan’s opponents, though, have been a bit less daunting – Turow and Enisey. There are just three teams in Group A that hold 2-0 records – UNICS, Lietuvos Rytas and Donetsk. After Week 3, there will be just two, or possibly one, if Donetsk lose in Tallinn. In the Eurocup, the White and Green defeated Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa and Turkish club Banvit. Nonetheless, the meeting with Lietuvos Rytas is certain to be UNICS’s stiffest challenge yet. A win would underscore their ambitions and help the team improve to 3-0.

Can UNICS play its best in Vilnius? As we’ve noted already, Kazan is yet to lose this season. But none of the wins have been particularly impressive – the team plays its best only periodically and relies more on individual star players to carry the squad. Unfortunately for UNICS, that likely won’t be enough in Lithuania – Lietuvos Rytas will punish any visible weakness. In order to come out on top, Andrea Trinchieri needs to get the maximum from his men.

Renaldas Seibutis (Lietuvos Rytas) vs Andrew Goudelock (UNICS). Both shooting guards are playing very well and are the primary reasons for their respective team’s success early in the 2013/2014 season. The duel between the two active, hard-working and versatile guards will be decisive in this game. We should note that Renaldas and Andrew both knocked down crucial game-winning shots for their teams in European cup games – against Panathinaikos and Banvit, respectively. It’s possible another shot like that from Seibutis or Goudelock could win this vital Week 3 contest.

Lietuvos Rytas head coach Dirk Bauermann:
— In our last game – against Lokomotiv-Kuban – we completely lost the rebounding battle, and our number of turnovers was unforgiveable. Plus, given our opponent’s defense, we couldn’t make our shots. We shouldn’t have panicked, but stuck to our game plan. All the same, I’m sure we can regroup and in our upcoming game against UNICS, a Euroleague-level team, play completely different basketball. On our home court we’re only thinking about victory.

UNICS head coach Andrea Trinchieri:
— Lietuvos Rytas already demonstrated its strength by winning Euroleague qualifying. Undoubtedly, it’s a very strong team, which made some very nice offseason additions. Its first home win over Panathinaikos also says a lot – the Lithuanians have character and won’t just roll over. This will be a true test for our team – we haven’t played this strong of an opponent yet this season.

— We’ve got a very interesting match-up awaiting us, — says Moscow Olympics bronze medalist Stanislav Eremin. – UNICS made some good additions this summer, and showed in its first few games that it still plays solid defense. Yeah, and as a whole, the team this year is quite balanced. A lot will depend on how UNICS prepares for the road game. Lietuvos Rytas didn’t look very confident at the start of the season. The Lithuanians have followed up wins with games in which they don’t score more than 50 points. We’ll see how the Lithuanians play on offense and Kazan on defense. That, I think, will determine the outcome of the game.