VTB United League
Khimki Moscow Region defeated Triumph Lyubertsy on the road, 81-59, in Week 18 of the regular season. Led by an efficient 20 points from Finnish guard Petteri Koponen, Khimki cruised by its Moscow Region rival in the second half to collect its 17th win of the season and preserve its perfect record. Triumph, already guaranteed to finish in 3rd place in Group B, simply struggled to shoot the ball, going 2-11 from long range and finish the regular season with an 11-7 record.
Triumph got off to a strong start, scoring its first eight points in the paint on a variety of lay-ups and post moves. But Khimki closed the period with purpose, outscoring the home team 9-1 in the final 3:38 to take a 20-14 lead. Center James Augustine did most of the damage, scoring seven straight at one point to put his team on top.
Vasily Karasev’s men came right back in the second quarter, getting a 3-pointer from Jeremy Chappell on its first possession, then jumping into the lead midway through the quarter. The home team continued to find success at the basket, with guards Evgeny Voronov and Dmitry Kulagin chipping in a combined nine points to make it a four-point advantage, 30-26, with 1:42 to go in the half.
Khimki, though, scored the final seven points before the break, snapping a 30-30 tie at the buzzer on a Mickael Gelabale ‘3’.
Khimki’s athletic French wing, Gelabale, picked up where he left off in the second, draining another ‘3’ to help Khimki tie its largest lead of the game yet, 36-30. Triumph managed to hang around most of the quarter, cutting a nine-point deficit to five midway through the quarter on baskets from Kyle Landry and Kulagin, but Khimki’s crisp, efficient offense eventually took control. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Koponen and Egor Vyaltsev made it a 13-point lead, which is where the difference would remain, 59-46 entering the fourth quarter.
If Triumph had any hope of getting back in the game, the visitors crushed it immediately, scoring the first five points of the final period to pull away by 18. The home team never got closer than 15 points the rest of the way, as Khimki hit its first eight attempts from the field and led by as much as 25 midway through the fourth. With 16 more assists as a team than Triumph, the visitors were just too good today to let their record winning streak come to an end.
Star of the Game
Mike Green. The 28-year-old American guard may have only scored five points, but his 13 assists were representative of Khimki’s effective team play. He keyed the Khimki charge to start the fourth quarter, dishing out three assists, grabbing an offensive rebound that led to a basket and scoring two points of his own to put Triumph away for good.
Stat of the Game
50%. Khimki lit it up from downtown, shooting 9-18 from beyond the arc. Koponen and Gelabale led the way, both hitting all three of their attempts.
Triumph head coach Vasily Karasev:
— Everyone knows perfectly well that our main attacking strength lies in Cory Higgins and it turned out that he had to leave the game today due to injury. Our rotation was messed up, plus Kulagin was playing his first game since being sick. He wasn't able to practice for a long time, which is why today our team, despite healthy motivation, couldn't do what it planned and got a little lost under the opponent's pressure.
Khimki head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis:
— I'm happy that we didn't give up today and battled despite playing without a full roster. At the end, I gave the youth players some time. I'm happy for the team that all of the guys played professionally, gave it their all and won. We prepared for a serious game--Triumph plays well at home and has every chance to win the FIBA EuroChallenge.
Triumph: Evgeny Voronov – 12 points, eight rebounds; Artem Vikhrov – 10 points, three assists; Kyle Landry – seven points, six rebounds.
Khimki: Petteri Koponen – 20 points, three rebounds, three assists; Kresimir Loncar – 17 points, six rebounds; James Augustine – 13 points, six rebounds; Mickael Gelabale – nine points, six rebounds; Mike Green – five points, 13 assists.