Lokomotiv snatches 2-0 series lead from CSKA
Whatever happens in the remaining VTB United quarterfinal games, none will manage to cause the kind of surprise Basketball fans have been treated to over the last two days. The competitions red hot favourite and one of the best teams in Europe, CSKA Moscow, have lost two on the spin to Lokomotiv Kuban at home.
All credit must go to Lokomotiv for heading to the Russian capital and seeing off a strong CSKA team to lead the series 2-0. Friday’s narrow 83-87 victory and Saturday’s more commanding 66-81 success have sent shockwaves through Russian Basketball and beyond, and certainly they are the kind of wins that take some time to sink in.
Sink in they will have to, especially for the CSKA players as they must now travel to Krasnodar and attempt to salvage the series away from home. Of course, the Moscow giant has the tools on court to do that, but for now CSKA is reeling and Lokomotiv looks strong. The Kuban players know full well a win in Game 3 would kill the series, so expect a classic as the series descends upon Southwest Russia.
While the two results in Moscow have come as a surprise, few would be shocked that it has been Lokomotiv Kuban delivering the upset. After-all, this is a club coming off the back of an encouraging debut campaign in the Euroleague, with Kuban just short of making the Play-off stage. The club has done well to maintain momentum since leaving Europe this season, and could be on the brink of the VTB United League Semi-Finals.
Lokomotiv took a slender win in Game 1, but Game 2 was much more emphatic as the Krasnodar club started strong in the opening 10 minutes to hold a 15-20 lead at the first break. The visitors held firm against a renewed CSKA rally in the second frame, but the Moscow club did cut the deficit to just two points at the half-time buzzer (36-38). The fans inside the Universal Sports Hall probably thought CSKA would go on to win in the second half, but Lokomotiv had other plans in the third stanza. The away team exploded in Q3 and blasted the net to the tune of 27 points, while restricting CSKA to just 11 points. The damage had been done and Kuban strolled down the straight to confirm the win and a 2-0 series advantage.
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