VTB United League
Lokomotiv-Kuban Krasnodar defeated Khimki Moscow Region at home, 78-55, in Game 3 of the semifinals. Kuban jumped in front early, before Khimki clawed back and took a one-point lead at halftime. The 2nd half, however, belonged to the home team. They held Khimki to 16 points in the final two quarters to enjoy a 23-point win. Game 4 will be played on Wednesday.
Lokomotiv-Kuban has one of the best fanbases in the VTB United League and the club did not disappoint on Monday, selling out the Basket Hall. The league's new mascot LEO29 added to the festive atmosphere, taking on Loko's Zubastik in a shooting competition during one of the timeouts.
Games 1 and 2 in Moscow Region were hard fought and both came down to the final minutes. The series was tied 1-1 as it headed to Krasnodar for Games 3 and 4.
Both teams were missing key players on Monday. Anthony Randolph played 18 minutes in Game 2, but wasn't on the roster in Game 3. Khimki, meanwhile, had to play without James Augustine and Paul Davis. The visitors clearly missed the two American big men, falling behind by as much as 10 in the opening period. Krasnodar had an easy time in transition and attacked the basket, forcing Khimki to foul and send Loko to the line. At the same time, the visitors struggled from outside and had trouble in the paint. The Railwaymen looked set to take a 10-point advantage into the 2nd quarter, but Petteri Koponen drilled a deep three at the buzzer to make it a 24-17 game.
Koponen's shot energized Khimki and the visitors came out firing in the 2nd quarter. Tyrese Rice and Ruslan Pateev did most of the damage, helping Khimki grab the lead at the end of the half, 39-38.
Lokomotiv dominated the 3rd quarter, starting with its defense. Kuban held the visitors to seven points and enjoyed a 34-22 advantage on the glass at the end of the 3rd quarter! Malcolm Delaney's alley-oop to Nikita Balashov highlighted the period as Loko entered the final 10 minutes with a 57-46 lead.
There would be no comeback in the 4th quarter. Kuban turned Khimki over five times to start the period, while Balashov continued to have an impact on offense. Lokomotiv has been prone to throw away big leads, but never let Khimki get close in this one. Once the lead hit 20 points, the Red-Green fans started singing the Krasnodar club hymn, which contains the phrase: "Once the Locomotive starts rolling, you can't stop this armored train!"
Star of the Game
Malcolm Delaney. Lokomotiv played one of its best games of the season and much of the credit goes to its American point guard. Delaney played 32 minutes and controlled the pace from start to finish. He ended the contest with 23 points and six assists, as well as a game-high efficiency rating of 23.
Stat of the Game
40-16 — Lokomotiv's 2nd-half advantage.
Lokomotiv-Kuban head coach Sergei Bazarevich:
— We played excellent defense in the second half, with a lot of the credit going to Nikita Balashov. The defense is what allowed us to pull away. I hope we all understand that this isn't the end. We need to be ready to play with just as much intensity on Wednesday. Could the game have gone differently? Every game is different. It can go any which way. Of course, having two centers out is a big blow to Khimki, although Pateev has played at Davis's level for two straight games. He did run out of steam a little in the second half. I would have preferred playing with everybody healthy on both sides. I'm confident that Khimki won't give up and will play tough in the next game. We need to prepare ourselves for a very tough game.
Khimki head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis:
— Lokomotiv proved that it can play really well at home. They played with energy and they played smart. It's not even that we are missing three leaders: Honeycutt, Augustine and Davis. Our current roster is good enough to win if we have the right attitude...if a few of the guys weren't already on summer break mentally. That drives me crazy as a coach. It's not a professional approach. But hope dies last and we'll have a chance on Wednesday. We'll try to get everyone ready physically and mentally. I'd like to praise Sergei Bazarevich. After all, Lokomotiv played hard and understood how important the game was. We completely lost the rebounding battle. I'm worried about our team's attitude to mistakes. I remember when I was in school and my coach explained which mistakes lead to turnovers. But we made 14 mistakes. That's not okay. These mistakes were made by players that won the Eurocup. That's not acceptable. Those mistakes speak to our attitude and focus.
Lokomotiv-Kuban: Malcolm Delaney — 23 points, six assists, two steals; Evgeny Voronov — 12 points; Nikita Balashov — nine points; Krunoslav Simon — nine points; Nikita Kurbanov — eight points, 10 rebounds, two steals; Richard Hendrix — four points, eight rebounds.
Khimki: Victor Claver — 16 points, six rebounds; Ruslan Pateev — 11 points, seven rebounds; Tyrese Rice — 11 points, five assists; Petteri Koponen — eight points.