In a must-win EuroLeague game on Friday night, Khimki suffered a painful defeat to Bayern Munich (60-71). With this result, the Muscovites’ chances to advance to the playoffs now are in serious jeopardy.
It was the end of a turbulent week for Khimki, which fired Greek head coach Giorgos Bartzokas and hired Lithuanian Rimas Kurtinaitis. This despite the fact that Khimki stunned everybody at the beginning of this month by upsetting Fenerbahce 84-78. That was their 3rd victory in four games, but since then they have lost seven out of ten games.
According to the reports, coach Bartzokas and the management were not on the same page. As a result, the club decided to part ways with him. In contrast, the players reportedly were unhappy with this decision and rather wanted Bartzokas to remain with the squad.
For their part, the management thought replacement coach Kurtinaitis would help Khimki remain competitive in the qualification race.
However, against Bayern, the Muscovites played well only for 10 minutes. The Russian hosts made an explosive start and closed the first quarter in front by 18 (28-10). Since then, though, the German visitors took over.
They cut the deficit to five at halftime (40-35) and took the lead, thanks to an impressive 0-16 run (46-53). Bayern played excellent on both ends and extended their advantage to double digits to seal the deal (57-69).
Derrick Williams led the winners with 20 points (13 of them in the second quarter), with Vladimir Lucic adding 15. Jordan Mickey and Malcolm Thomas (10 rebounds) scored 13 points apiece for the losing squad.
As a result, Bayern Munich improved to 10-10, whereas Khimki dropped to 7-13.
At the moment, the problem for Khimki is that they cannot afford to lose another game, especially at home. If they are to maintain a play-off push, they have to claim as many victories as they can.
Yet, they have a difficult schedule coming up. Khimki will face the likes of Panathinaikos, Zalgiris Kaunas, Baskonia and Armani Milano in the next 40 days. They will also play against Buducnost on the road (February 7).
The Russians have to win all those matches. Otherwise, they will be in a vulnerable position. In the last part of the season, Khimki will play against Final Four contenders Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow, and Barcelona. Furthermore, the matches against Darussafaka (Istanbul, 20/3) and Maccabi Tel-Aviv (Moscow, 22/3) are also must-win ones.
A possible 7-3 record in the last 10 games will help them fight until the end to reach the playoffs. In any case, though, they should also pay attention to the other teams’ results.
The question now is whether coach Kurtinaitis can turn things around and bring the club bck to the winning track.
Against Bayern Munich, Khimki scored 28 points in the opening quarter. In the remaining 30 minutes, they scored 32 points, playing very badly on both ends (they also conceded 61 points).
An identical performance in the following games will put an end to the squad’s hopes to fight for the playoffs. Starting from the match against Zalgiris (31/01), the club has no other option, but to start winning again.