Khimki trailed Zenit by a game in the standings, needing to win by at least five points to catch St. Petersburg and earn the playoff tiebreaker. Zenit, meanwhile, could virtually clinch 2nd place with a victory and begin preparing for the postseason.
The home team started hot behind nine points from Alexey Shved in the opening quarter. Leading 23-15, Khimki went up by 12 early in the 2nd as Jacob Pullen scored five quick points on a layup and 3-pointer.
The visitors got back in the game by drilling shots from outside and slowing down the Khimki attack. Sergey Karasev, who finished with a game-high 23, scored seven in the quarter and Zenit only trailed by three at halftime, 42-39.
Zenit wasted no time in the 3rd quarter, opening the period on a 17-2 run. Karasev dunked on this assist from Stefan Markovic, punctuating the lopsided quarter.
Khimki briefly cut the lead to three points late in the 3rd quarter, but the home team never really threatened. Zenit always had a response, holding Khimki to 24 points in the second half to pick up an eight-point victory.
Zenit improves to 19-3 with the win, while Khimki drops to 17-5, 1.5 games up on 4th-place Lokomotiv (14-5).
8 & 15 – Khimki only recorded eight assists, while turning the ball over 15 times. It’s tough to win with an assist-to-turnover ratio like that.
Khimki head coach Dusko Ivanovic:
– We lost the game and along with it an opportunity to finish in 2nd place in the VTB United League regular season, but our goals haven’t changed. We need to reach the finals and make the EuroLeague next season. In my opinion, we are capable of that. In our two remaining games, we must play much better and show more patience. We started strong today and had the lead, but there was a point when we had two-three quick possessions which led to mistakes. Zenit played very well. If you back down against a team like that and turn the ball over, they will punish you. Our opponent demonstrated excellent offense today and fast breaks, which got them back in the game. We struggled to begin the 3rd quarter and Zenit took the lead by pushing the tempo. They ran every chance they got and scored easy baskets. Once they were up by 10, it was hard to come back. We cut the deficit to 4-6 points twice, but overall, my team wasn’t patient enough throughout the game.
Zenit head coach Vasily Karasev:
– It’s very important that we won, because this was essentially a game for 2nd place. It was very competitive at the start. We struggled a lot on defense and offense, but were able to turn things around with good man-to-man defense. We really do have our own style, which everyone likes, players and fans included: aggressive defense, quick transition. That’s how they play in Europe and the NBA. I won’t talk about the EuroLeague right now; first we need to finish the job.