VTB United League
Alexey Shved vs. CSKA’s defense, Will Clyburn vs. Janis Timma, Dimitris Itoudis vs. Rimas Kurtinaitis.
When and where
Game 1. USH CSKA, Moscow, Russia. 7:30 PM MSK, June 5
Game 2. USH CSKA, Moscow, Russia. 7:30 PM MSK, June 7
Game 3. BCMO, Khimki, Russia. 7:30 PM MSK, June 10
Game 4*. BCMO, Khimki, Russia. 1:30 PM MSK, June 12
Game 5*. USH CSKA, Moscow, Russia. 5:30 PM MSK, June 15
* – if necessary
CSKA: 1st place (22-4)
Khimki: 3rd place (20-6)
Three burning questions
Will Khimki have the motivation and toughness to seriously challenge CSKA?
CSKA vs. Khimki has been Russian basketball’s best rivalry in recent decades. At the same time, the Army Men have been thoroughly dominant, winning 22 of 29 VTB United League match-ups and nine of the last 10. CSKA’s dominance is even more complete in the postseason: 14-2 vs. Khimki. Thanks to strong regular-season campaigns, the Red and Blue typically have an easier path to the Finals.
Matched up with their biggest rival after bruising battles with other contenders, Khimki always asserts that it’s not satisfied and will do everything it can to steal the title from the Army Men. But only on postseason series has proved competitive, and that was way back in 2013, when these two teams went five games in the semifinals. Each of the three previous series have belonged 100% to CSKA, ending in 3-0 sweeps.
The win over UNICS in the semifinals gave Khimki a EuroLeague ticket, which means the team has already met its baseline goal for the season. Can Moscow Region reboot for the Finals in time and slay their CSKA demons?
Can Khimki stop Will Clyburn without Janis Timma?
Will Clyburn entered the final stage of the season in the best shape of the season. The forward helped CSKA win the Final Four in Vitoria, where he was named the MVP, then played extremely well in the series with Zenit. The American averaged 15.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in two games in Moscow. His numbers were more modest in Game 3–6 points, seven rebounds and two assists–but he had the game-saving block in the final seconds, stopping Evgeny Valiev to preserve a one-point lead. He is capable of impacting the game even when he’s overshadowed by his teammates and doesn’t score a ton of points.
Layups and back-to-the-basket post play, not to mention a recent surge in three-point shooting (3-4 and 4-6 at the EuroLeague Final Four, then 2-5 in each of the first two games vs. Zenit)–Clyburn is a universal weapon for CSKA and a big problem for opposing defenses.
Khimki also had a dangerous weapon at the forward position. Janis Timma joined Khimki mid-season and made the team significantly better. He didn’t play in the first two games against CSKA in the regular season and presented a bit of a mystery for the EuroLeague champions. Timma quickly became a leader in Moscow Region, taking some of the burden from Alexey Shved (he bailed out the Russian star in Game 4 vs. UNICS, scoring 24 points and hitting big shots down the stretch). The forward, however, broke a toe in the semifinals and won’t play in the Finals, a huge loss for the Yellow and Blue.
As a result, Sergey Monia and Tony Crocker will shoulder a much bigger load, both of whom were role players for most of the season. The Russian has vast experience in the League and the American will get a chance to prove himself after an up-and-down season and perhaps keep his spot on the roster for next season.
How will Alexey Shved handle CSKA’s defense?
Khimki’s fortunes always depend in large part on Shved’s performance. The regular season MVP delivered in the semifinals vs. UNICS, averaging 28 points per game.
VTB United League
Алексей Швед был неудержим в Игре #3 против @unicsbasket | @Shved23 was unstoppable in Game 3 vs UNICS: