The VTB League semi-finals tipped off on Wednesday as Unics Kazan played host to Zenit St. Petersburg and emerged from a classic with a 94-93 home win. Unics was the season’s success story, finishing second during the Regular Season behind runaway leaders and recently crowned Euroleague champions CSKA Moscow.
Speaking of the Moscow giant, CSKA will kick off its pursuit for a fifth consecutive VTB League when the Army Men host Khimki in tomorrow’s semi-final.
Unics Kazan can now celebrate a 1-0 lead in the semi-final series, but Zenit St. Petersburg will have the opportunity to strike back through the best of five series.
Unics Kazan vs. Zenit St. Petersburg, 94-95
In Game 2, Zenit will be looking to its bench to produce more as the starters picked up 54 points for the losing effort. Unics offered a far more balanced offensive approach, with the starting five hitting 50 points and the bench providing 44 points, the hosts also producing 54 points in the paint.
That dominance in the offensive key allowed Unics Kazan to get back in the game. Zenit will rue a missed opportunity after the club had carved an 18 point lead at one point and looked on course for victory.
Zenit opened the game the stronger team, taking Unics to task at some stages of the first quarter and producing a 17-23 lead after ten minutes of play. In the second frame the visitors started to dominate, taking the stanza 20-29 to open a sizeable 37-52 lead through halftime.
Through the long break it looked like the guests would continue its momentum, but Unics emerged from the locker room refreshed. The third act changed the game as the home team poured in 31 points and stopped Zenit at 19 for a 68-71 scoreboard through thirty minutes. The momentum was with the hosts now, and Unics edged a thrilling fourth quarter 26-22 to steal the contest in the dying seconds, producing a memorable VTB League comeback.
Keith Langford was at his devastating best for Unics, draining 30 points while adding 7 rebounds and 5 scoring passes. Joaquim Colom also impressed with 26 points, 5 boards, and 6 assists from the bench, while Latavius Williams dropped 15 points.
Zabian Dowdell set a pace for Zenit with 18 points, followed by the games only double-double, 17 points and 12 rebounds from Kaspers Berzins. Jannis Tima added 14 points, 6 boards, and 4 dimes in the loss.