VTB United League
Krasnodar vs. Khimki, Dmitry Kulagin vs. Alexey Shved, Sasa Obradovic vs. Georgios Bartzokas.
Where and When:
Game 1. Basket Hall, Krasnodar, Russia. 7:00 PM (7:00 MSK), May 23
Game 2. BCMO, Khimki, Russia. 5:15 PM (5:15 MSK), May 26
Game 3. BCMO, Khimki, Russia. 7:00 PM (7:00 MSK), May 28
Game 4. Basket Hall, Krasnodar, Russia. May 31 (if necessary)
Game 5. Basket Hall, Krasnodar, Russia. June 2 (if necessary)
Lokomotiv-Kuban: 3rd place (17-7)
Khimki: 6th place (13-11)
Face to Face
Round 1: Lokomotiv-Kuban – Khimki, 93-78
Round 2: Khimki – Lokomotiv-Kuban, 83-90
Khvostov, Ragland, Kulagin, Baburin, Babb, Lacey
Markovic, Shved, Jenkins, Zaitcev, Vyaltsev, Anderson
Like the rest of the roster, Lokomotiv’s backcourt has exceptional versatility. There are guards of every stripe on the roster: the offense-minded Joe Ragland paired with a traditional point guard in Dmitry Khvostov, jack-of-all trades Dmitry Kulagin, defensive specialist Evgeny Baburin and shooters like Babb and Lacey.
Khimki can’t complain about depth, either, but Alexey Shved’s presence in the backcourt means his teammates are often overshadowed. The Russian guard led the League in scoring this season (22.3 points per game) and will be expected to push it even higher in the Playoffs: more time on the court means more shot attempts. The Khimki star will is capable of carrying a team single-handedly, even against Loko’s six-headed monster in the backckourt.
Collins – Antipov – Maciulis – Broekhoff – Ivlev – Ilnitsky – Elegar – Qvale
Honeycutt – Monia – Gill – Zubkov – Thomas – Robinson
Loko has even more options in the frontcourt. An injury in March to Broekhoff led Loko to ink Maciulis, adding extra depth and experience to an already talented group.
Khimki’s frontcourt dealt with far more injuries over the course of the season as the big men took turns covering for banged-up teammates, though now everyone is healthy for nearly the first time all season. That’s really all you need to know. It’s hard to match the talent and skill in Khimki’s frontcourt.
Bs they say in the NBA, you can’t teach height. The Yellow-Blue frontcourt has more than enough quality, but size is another issue. Krasnodar boasts two classic centers, including the often dominant Frank Elegar. Khimki simply doesn’t have anyone like him. Height, strength and the ability to mix-and-match various options at the center position on offense give the Red-Greens an advantage.
For the hardcore fans, Stanislav Ilnitsky and Andrey Zubkov present an interesting match-up after swapping clubs in the summer.
Under Obradovic’s watchful eye, Lokomotiv has become known for discipline and effort. The Serbian coach built the League’s most effective defense (73.1 points allowed per game) and has no trouble getting through to his players. No matter what happens, Sasa has the situation under the control. The only time it hasn’t worked is when facing Scottie Wilbekin, but that won’t be a concern in the quarterfinals.
Bartzokas and Krasnodar will always be linked. He led the team to its best season in club history, helping Lokomotiv reach the EuroLeague Final Four. But he quickly drew the ire of the fans by signing with Barcelona the same summer. Things didn’t go well in Spain, leading the famous Greek coach back to Russia. He’s had an up-and-down season so far. While Khimki made it to the EuroLeague quarterfinals, the VTB League has not been as kind, at least not yet. Everyone on the team would like to erase tape from the regular season, and a poor performance in the quarterfinals to go with missing the EuroLeague would likely raise some questions from the front office.
This may perhaps be the most interesting one-on-one match-up in the quarterfinals: two Russian guards, two stars. Shved, of course, is a superstar, leading EuroBasket, the VTB League and EuroLeague in scoring in the same season! Meanwhile, Kulagin has earned the right to be named a franchise player. Kulagin’s performance in the EuroCup finals somewhat spoiled his regular season campaign, but should only add more fuel to the fire in the Playoffs.
Ragland, Kulagin, Elegar. These are bench players on Loko’s roster, even if each has All-Star potential. The emphasis in Krasnodar is on the system, which means anyone is capable of erupting from game-to-game. Loko’s bench is a symbol of the team’s might and depth.
Khimki’s strength lies in its starting lineup; Bartzokas has not been very aggressive with the bench. The most intriguing and unpredictable quarterfinal series promises to entertain with Loko’s depth potentially playing a decisive role.