VTB United League
Khimki Russia hosts Astana Kazakhstan in a regular season showdown.
BCMO (capacity 4,000), Khimki, Russia
8:00 PM (8:00 MSK), March 25, 2019
Face to face
The Khimki – Astana rivalry has been rather lopsided, with Moscow Region leading 12-3. Khimki also won the first meeting of the season, 76-67, in Kazakhstan. Astana’s most recent victory came last spring. The Kazakh club won on the road, 84-79, on March 11, 2018.
Khimki (14-5) continues to battle for 2nd place in the standings. The club is trying to catch UNICS (16-4) and can move within a game with a victory on Monday. Lokomotiv-Kuban, meanwhile, is another game back at 13-6.
For the first time in club history, Astana (13-7) has a legitimate shot at a top-four finish. With a win on Monday, the Kazakh club would be tied with Khimki in the win column. Having already defeated Zenit, Loko and UNICS this season, the breakthrough team of the season has another chance to make noise against a top opponent.
The week behind
Khimki had a busy week, playing twice in the EuroLeague. On Wednesday, the Yellow and Blue lost to Darussafaka on the road (91-85), before falling to Maccabi on Friday at home (76-71). The team had already been eliminated from the playoff race, so the results had little impact. However, expect the home team to be extra motivated for Astana. Another loss would raise a lot of questions from the fans and the front office.
Astana has also been busy, playing twice on the road against its biggest rival in the Kazakh league. The visitors had no trouble dispatching Tobol in both games, 102-84 and 91-64.
Who will win the rebounding battle?
New Khimki head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis believes rebounding is his team’s biggest problem. That’s how the Lithuanian has explained most of the losses since his return to Moscow Region. The recent signings of Andrew Harrison, Janis Timma and Dmitry Sokolov were all intended to make his team bigger and more competitive on the glass.
The rebounding battle will also be a big factor in Monday’s game. Unlike its opponent, Astana feels very comfortable down low, ranking second in the League with an average of 36.5 rebounds per game. Khimki is only 10th at 34.4.
Alexey Shved vs. Anthony Clemmons.
The duel between these two snipers will be fun to watch: Shved vs. Clemmons. The Kazakh scorer is 5th right now in the scoring race at 16.4 points per game. Shved has the highest average in the League with 23.9 ppg, but is not included in the scoring race because he lacks the minimum number of appearances.
Clemmons is one of the candidates for MVP and a win over the Khimki superstar would significantly improve his chances of bringing home the individual honor. You can practically guarantee a shootout in Moscow Region.
Khimki head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis: “Astana is playing very well this season. This is a dangerous team, which they showed in games vs. Zenit and UNICS. They have interesting players on their roster. The six Americans shoulder most of the responsibilities. They don’t have one clearly-defined star. All of the foreign players average between 10 and 15 points. In other words, they play team basketball. They love to push the tempo and score early in possessions. They like to shoot 3-pointers after the first pass or screen and do so at a high percentage. Astana always battles and it won’t be easy, but we are playing at home and determined to win.”
Astana head coach Emil Rajkovic: “Khimki will be aggressive and quick. Our challenge is to slow the tempo, minimize their fast breaks and try to win the rebounding battle. The final aspect may be the deciding factor in our game. We also need to contain Khimki’s leaders, especially Alexey Shved. Our opponent also has several talented new players–Janis Timma and Andrew Harrison–who will absolutely want to make an impression on the home fans.”