Khimki gets back to winning thanks to historic defense
Khimki Moscow Region and defense have not been exactly synonymous this season, but Alexey Shved and co. got things done defensively to finally snap a nightmare losing skid.
Khimki came into its home game against Real Madrid having allowed 91.0 points a contest. The club held down the Real offense to pick up a 78-77 victory for its first win since November 17 — a 17-game losing streak including 11 games in which Khimki conceded 90 or more points.
Khimki has the offensive weapons to go off — having tallied 84 or more points six times during the losing skid. Against Real, the trio of Shved, Errick McCollum and Jordan Mickey combined for 63 points — or 80.8% of the team's points. Shved amassed 22 points, 8 assists and 5 steals, McCollum tallied 22, 7 and 3 and Mickey went for 19 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks against his former Real Madrid teammates.
Along with the great scoring production, the big difference is that interim head coach Andrei Maltsev has his men playing better on defense of late, allowing 89 and 84 points in their last two games to TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz and AX Armani Exchange Milan respectively.
"This is a collective win. We played together as a team. We showed a good offense and defense. I would like to have a better three-point percentage but we are on a good road. We showed a good approach," Maltsev said.
Khimki had been allowing teams to shoot 55.9% on two-pointers but held Real to just 45.7%. Khimki also snatched up 18 steals to set a club EuroLeague record while forcing 23 Real turnovers — tying the Spanish powerhouse's mark for its second-most in the competition.
"I’m just happy with got a W. It’s been a tough year for us but we stayed focused and confident. And it showed tonight. It came down to us playing defense, rebounding. That’s been a struggle for us this year. But tonight, everybody rebounded and played good defense," said Mickey.
Tuesday's showing was all the more impressive considering that Khimki was playing without Devin Booker, Stefan Jovic and Janis Timma.
Khimki has gone through a tough season, but now it has a blueprint on getting victories — namely playing tough defense.