VTB United League
Khimki Moscow Region defeated Lokomotiv-Kuban Krasnodar on the road, 76-67, in Game 4 of the playoff semifinals. Khimki got hot early on from beyond the arc, putting together an 18-0 run in the 2nd quarter. Lokomotiv came back in the second half, but never overcame the 22-point deficit. The series returns to Moscow Region for a decisive Game 5 on Saturday.
Lokomotiv won two straight after a disappointing Game 1 defeat to move within one win of reaching the finals. Khimki, of course, needed a victory on the road to keep its championship hopes alive and bring the series back home for Game 5. As in Game 3, Loko's Anthony Randolph and Khimki's Paul Davis and James Augustine were not available.
Rimas Kurtinaitis made one adjustment in the starting lineup, replacing Egor Vyaltsev with Petteri Koponen. Khimki struggled a bit in the opening minutes before picking up steam as Koponen and Marko Popovic dropped in a couple of threes to give the visitors the lead. Moscow Region went on to make four of its first seven long-range attempts, an excellent sign for the visitors after combining to shoot 14-45 from dowtown in Games 2 and 3.
Khimki held a 22-19 advantage at the end of the opening period before putting together an 18-0 run in the second. Moscow Region finished the half with a 50-28 lead, having shot 9-15 from beyond the arc.
Sergei Bazarevich made several adjustments at halftime. Lokomotiv-Kuban's defense improved dramatically, even forcing a couple shot-clock violations. The Basket Hall crowd started to come alive as the home team cut the deficit to 13, 62-49, entering the 4th quarter.
The Railwaymen continued to close the gap in the final period, but a frigid 2-17 performance from beyond the arc made matters difficult. Nine missed free throws didn't help either. Even so, Derrick Brown had a chance to cut the deficit to four with a minute left, but he missed a fast break layup, while Koponen drilled a jumper at the other end. That was it for Lokomotiv. Khimki holds on for a 76-67 win and forces Game 5 on Saturday.
Star of the Game
Marko Popovic. Khimki was on the brink of elimination after the devastating loss in Game 3. Once again, the Yellow-Blues had to play without big men James Augustine and Paul Davis. Someone needed to step up and that player was Popovic. He's had lots of nagging injuries throughout the season and struggled to play at his typical level, but he came through on the biggest stage. Popovic's 3-pointers and 13 points in the first half helped Khimki take complete control of the game. The Croat's big game sparked a terrific performance from Khimki on the road.
Stat of the Game
18-0 — Khimki's run in the 2nd quarter effectively decided the outcome of the contest.
Lokomotiv-Kuban: Derrick Brown — 20 points; Malcolm Delaney — 13 points; Krunoslav Simon — 10 points, five assists; Richard Hendrix — seven points, seven rebounds.
Khimki: Marko Popovic — 16 points; Ruslan Pateev — 11 points; Victor Claver — 10 points, eight rebounds; Tyrese Rice — 10 points, six assists; Petteri Koponen — 10 points, five assists; Sergey Monia — nine points, five rebounds.