The VTB league Finals match is set. CSKA Moscow swept their semi-finals series against BC Unics Kazan (3-0) to book their ticket, while BC Nizhny Novgorod dispatched Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius 3-1 to earn their slot. Game 1 of the Finals is set for June 9, 2014. Nizhny Novgorod’s appearance in the finals does not only give them a shot at this season’s title, it has also opened the door for the club to join the Euroleague in 2014-15. As per the regulations, the winner of the VTB title gets an invite into the prestigious European competition, but because CSKA Moscow has an A License, Nizhny Novgorod will get to participate for the first time in the club’s history.
Lietuvos Rytas vs. Nizhny Novgorod, 78-84
It took Nizhny Novogord four games to accomplish the task, but they were finally able to dispatch with Lithuanian powerhouse Lietuvos Rytas.
The Russian team was able to capitalize on solid shooting from three-point range as well as superior ball movement to down their opponents. Nizhny Novgorod found their open man in the outside several times as the team were 10-of-24 from downtown. They also dished out a total of 19 assists compared to Lietuvos Rytas’ 11. Novogorod’s Dmitry Khvostov quietly managed to hand out eight of those 19 dimes to his teammates.
Their excellent execution on offense allowed the Russian club to pull away from their competitors early, which resulted in Nizhny Novgorod seizing the initiative with a 10-point first quarter lead (16-26). Darius Songaila did his best to keep Lietuvos Rytas in the hunt as his teammates pounded the ball to him down low, so he could attack the basket at close range. At the end of the first half, however, the team from Lithuania saw the deficit rise to 13 and they knew that they would need to pull out all the stops in the game’s final 24 minutes in order to extend the series.
Both Songaila and Steponas Brauskas led the charge for Lietuvos Rytas in the third frame and they were able muster enough momentum to slash the gap down to four points heading into the final period. Unfortunately for them, Nizhny Novgorod woke up in the final 12 minutes and were able to contest their runs with some easy baskets of their own and held on for the win.
Nizhny Novgorod’s top performers were also their best shooters from deep. Taylor Rochestie came off the bench and went 3-of-5 from downtown en route to his team-high 20 points. Semen Antonov scored majority of his 16 points from beyond the arc as he went 4-of-6 from three-point land. Starters Pavel Korobkov and Vadim Panin added 13 and 10 points respectively.
Darius Songaila led Lietuvos Rytas with a game-high 21 points on some solid and efficient shooting, making 7-of-11 shots from two-point range, as well as 7-of-8 free throws. Steponas Babrauskas was the only player on his team to sink shots from the outside. His 2-of-5 shooting from downtown was the only success his team found on that attack as the rest of his teammates found themselves ice cold. Lietuvos Rytas ended up shooting 2-of-13 from deep. Babrauskas ended the game 16 points and four assists to his name. Juan Palacios chipped in 11 points, but shot poorly from the the free-throw line (3-6).
While CSKA Moscow are regarded as the favorites to take down the VTB title this season, Nizhny Novgorod should not be underestimated by any means, especially if they can continue to make strides in their offensive sets.