Lokomotiv-Kuban defeated UNICS Kazan with character in the match of the first phase of the regular championship of the VTB United League. The match ended with the score 82:75.
The most productive player of the game was railroad defenseman Devon Akun-Purcell, who scored 19 points. It is noteworthy that the Krasnodar team lost 22 points on their court in the third quarter, but in the end found the strength to catch up and beat their opponent.
“Championship” has prepared material based on the results of the week’s match, which perhaps has become the best so far in the current VTB United League season.
Photo: PBC Lokomotiv-Kuban
Both teams were in the top 6 of the standings before the match. UNICS took second place and Lokomotiv fourth. Not everything went well for the Kazan team: in the last five matches, Velimir Perasovic’s team lost in two, and in one, on the spot against the debutant “Rune”. The second defeat was also in Kazan, but in the match against CSKA.
For the Kuban players the situation was more promising: four victories in a row, including that of CSKA.
Obviously, an additional motivation for Lokomotiv was the memory of the first match of the season against UNICS, in which the Krasnodar team could not impose the fight on the reigning champions and lost -18. Before the throw-in of the second match between the teams, the fans were waiting not only for the confrontation between the coaches, but also between the players. In particular, Nenad Dimitrievich (UNICS) and DeVon Akun-Purcell (Lokomotiv-Kuban). A battle was also expected between the greats: Jalen Reynolds (UNICS) and Okaro White (Lokomotiv-Kuban).
Loko coach Alexander Sekulic admitted before the match that one of the strongest teams in the league with a team of Euroleague playoff level comes to his team and also noted that the red-greens should not lose concentration during the match .
The disastrous first part of Loko
Lokomotiv-Kuban – UNICS
Photo: PBC Lokomotiv-Kuban
Surprisingly, the teams started the game very cautiously, at least the scoreboard indicated so. In nearly six and a half minutes of the first quarter, the teams scored just 15 points between them. However, later came a more open basketball, in which UNICS seemed more convincing.
The same trend continued in the second quarter and, as a result, the teams went into the long break with a 20-point lead for UNICS, and the match commentators casually advised Loko coach Alexander Sekulic to think about the next meeting.
The Kuban team was very unlucky with three-pointers: 1/11 (9%) in 20 minutes of play. UNICS was also better in rebounds (24 vs. 20), in assists (10-6) and committed fewer turnovers (4-5).
This is not to say that Loko was bad, just a lot of things did not work out, plus there were several completely unnecessary defeats that led to the opponent gaining points. The defending champion played more disciplined, especially in defense, and this was enough to create a disadvantage.
If Perasovic during the break only needed to tell his players how not to lose their advantage, then Sekulic faced a much more difficult task: to find the keys to the Kazan team’s defense and inspire his players not to give up. in advance.
Burford on Loko’s victory over UNICS: Sekulic told us not to give up and fight
A 180 degree turn in the situation and a heroic second half for Lokomotiv
Already in the first minute of the third quarter, UNICS increased the lead to 22 points and it seemed that the Kazan team would not miss its chance. Yes, Loko began to play more actively, Jaylen Burford took the initiative, but the reigning champion continued to score points.
However, then UNICS lost concentration and had a lack of concentration: several defeats and failures, after which Perasovich had to take a timeout and Loko reduced the gap to 15 points. The Krasnodar team continued to hold their line and finally lost by three. Three hits in a row and the third quarter ended with UNICS leading by just 10 points. Loko stayed in the game.
The last ten minutes started discouragingly for the Krasnodar team: UNICS regained the 15-point lead and Lokomotiv leader Akun-Purcell committed his fourth foul and sat on the bench. It seemed that the Kuban team could no longer come back, and reducing the difference to ten points would remain the main achievement at the end of the match. Sekulic obviously had other plans for this and took another timeout to try and break down the UNICS defense once again.
Loko came out of the break with the motto “All or nothing.” Andrey Martyuk helped the team a lot on both sides of the court, and Jaylen Burford traditionally played the second half much more impactfully than the first. Either UNICS did not expect such resistance from Loko, which is hard to believe, or the Kazan team simply relaxed seeing a double-digit lead on the scoreboard.
The Kuban team defended very aggressively and it paid off. UNICS committed five turnovers in four minutes and Lokomotiv magically reduced the gap to two points. Perasovich urgently called for a timeout, but the “railroaders” already smelled blood. Burford first made a beautiful pass and then hit a three-pointer, which seemed to drive the nail into the coffin for UNICS. Akun-Purcell added two more important points and Loko could no longer catch them. 82:75 — Sekulic’s team recovered 22 points and became the best in this indicator in the current season of the VTB United League. UNICS lost in the second big game in two weeks and Perasovich definitely has complaints about his players.
Did this match influence anything?
Alexander Shcherbenev and Andrey Martyuk
Photo: PBC Lokomotiv-Kuban
On a global level, the result of this game decided nothing. There are still many games ahead and the most important are the playoffs. Of course, you can’t draw conclusions from one or two games, but some trends can be traced. For example, UNICS stops when its first line is not the first choice in the match.
This happened both in the match against CSKA and in the match against Loko. Furthermore, it cannot be said that the Kazan team lost today precisely because of that. They led by 22 points thanks to the effort of the defense and the scoring of the defenders. The “big guys” did not have much influence in the attack. But in the second half, Perasovich’s team obviously lacked more active and aggressive actions from the attacking zone. As in the match against CSKA, today the UNICS bench helped the base much worse than the rival.
It is worth highlighting, of course, the youth of Lokomotiv. Kirill Elatontsev, Andrey Martyuk and Zakhar Vedischev played mostly praise, and the latter two somehow became a kind of X-factor in the last quarter. The team didn’t really give up and got what they wanted. Jaylen Burford showed his class again and DeVon Akun-Purcell confirmed that November’s MVP award was not just won. Lokomotiv and Unics are now in different situations, but it is very interesting to see in what conditions they will approach the playoffs.