VTB United League
Khimki Moscow Region hosts UNICS Kazan in the Game of the Week.
BCMO (capacity 4,000), Khimki, Russia
3:00 PM (3:00 MSK), October 28, 2018
VTB-League.com, Match! Nash Sport
Face to Face
UNICS defeated Khimki twice last season, 80-79 and 83-80. Both games were extremely competitive and exciting. At the Basket Hall, Kazan pulled off a miracle comeback, overturning an 11-point deficit with two minutes remaining to win by one.
Khimki picked the right time for revenge, defeating UNICS in the Final Four semifinals, 76-71. Besides advancing to the championship, Moscow Region also sewed up a berth in this season’s EuroLeague.
Moscow Region enjoys a 9-7 edge all-time in VTB League match-ups.
Khimki and UNICS have big ambitions this season and both want the coveted EuroLeague berth. These two teams always seem to entertain. Considering how last season played out, both teams will be desperate to draw first blood when the rivalry renews.
Khimki (4-0) and UNICS (3-0) are both undefeated to begin the season. This will be the first loss of the season in the League for one of these two teams, while the winner will tighten its grip on the top-three.
Balance of Power
Khimki has taken care of business in the League, but remains without a win in the EuroLeague at 0-4. On Thursday, Khimki lost for the second consecutive time in the final seconds, dropping an 81-80 heart-breaker in Milan. Making matters worse for Moscow Region, the team was playing its 5th game in 11 days and won’t have much time to prepare for Sunday’s blockbuster vs. UNICS.
UNICS got off to a stronger start in Europe, winning three in a row in the EuroCup. On Wednesday, however, Kazan suffered its first setback, losing in overtime to Unicaja on the road, 82-80.
After losing road games with nearly identical scores, Khimki and UNICS will be even more motivated on Sunday. Neither club has any interest in dropping two in a row.
The match-up between two of Greece’s finest coaches in Georgios Bartzokas and Dimitris Priftis provides extra intrigue. The two men have competed against each other in the Greek league, frequently meeting during the early 2000’s and both have won Greek Coach of the Year awards. Last season, they added a new page to their rivalry, but now on Russian soil.
Bartzokas and Priftis preach classic Greek basketball values with an emphasis on defense, discipline, attention to detail and strict execution of the game plan. Expect an old-school battle on Sunday with Bartzokas and Priftis in charge.
Errick McCollum signed with UNICS before the start of the season. The dangerous sniper is still adapting to his new team, scoring a total of 12 points in his last two games. But the older brother to NBA star C.J. McCollum is capable of much more. In the recent win vs. Lokomotiv-Kuban, Errick scored the final 12 points of the game for UNICS to seal the victory.
If his killer instinct awakens again, he could be a major factor on Sunday.
Center of Attention
The VTB League and EuroLeague’s leading scorer, Alexey Shved, is always at the center of attention. But this time Kazan is certain to bring his name up frequently during game prep. The last time these two teams met, Shved was unstoppable, setting a playoff record and breaking his personal mark with 36 points. Can UNICS’s defense stop him this time?
Anton Ponkrashov (2007-2009) and Maxim Sheleketo (2014-2016) have experience playing in Moscow Region. Khimki has only one former UNICS player: Petr Gubanov suited up for Kazan from 2014-2016.