VTB United League
Zenit defeated Khimki at home in Game 1 of the semifinals, 99-95 (27-28, 19-16, 26-27, 27-24).
Zenit: Aaron White (22+7 reb), Sergey Karasev (21+5 ast), Kyle Landry (18+6 reb), Stefan Markovic (13+9 ast)
Khimki: Alexey Shved (31+7 ast+4 stl), Robbie Hummel (15+6 reb), Marko Todorovic (13+6 reb)
The first half met expectations as Zenit and Khimki battled for every square inch of the court. The home team took a long time to find its rhythm, but kept Moscow Region from pulling away, trailing by a point at the end of the 1st quarter.
Despite 13 points from Alexey Shved in the first half, Zenit was able to cruise into halftime with a 46-44 advantage. Turnovers hurt Vasily Karasev’s team, but balanced scoring, including 12 points from Aaron White, gave the home team an edge.
Eight points in two minutes from Sergey Karasev pushed Zenit’s lead to 13 early in the 3rd quarter. Khimki battled back, pushing the tempo in transition, including this emphatic slam from Slava Zaitcev.
Entering the 4th, Dusko Ivanovic and co. trailed by a point, 72-71.
Both teams had a chance to win it in the final minutes, but Stefan Markovic showed poise under pressure, guiding Zenit to victory. With two minutes remaining, the Serb forced a turnover at mid-court, feeding Aaron White for an uncontested dunk.
After the visitors pulled within three, Markovic created some offense of his own, draining a 3-pointer to put his team in control, 96-90. The home team went on to win, 99-95, drawing first blood in the semifinal series.
Stefan Markovic. The Serbian guard gave Zenit a much-needed win to open the series, stepping up in crunch time. He also nearly recorded a double-double with 13 points and nine assists.
53-27 – Zenit’s advantage in bench scoring.
Zenit head coach Vasily Karasev:
– The first game in a series is very important because we didn’t plan to lose the home-court advantage. The game turned out to be somewhat stressful. We couldn’t handle Shved. Because Harper was sick, we had trouble with one-on-one defense, but it’s good we were able to pull through.
Khimki head coach Dusko Ivanovic:
– The atmosphere at the game today was excellent. The arena was full, like it should be in the semifinals. As for the game, this was only the first game in the series. We’re ready to play all five, if necessary. We had a chance to win today. We didn’t take advantage and now we’re thinking about Game 2.
May 27 in St. Petersburg