VTB United: Khimki and Zenit reach semis

VTB UnitedKhimki Moscow Region and Zenit St. Petersburg reached the semi-final of the VTB United League, joining reigning champs CSKA Moscow and Unics Kazan in the final four.

Khimki has arguably the toughest quarter-final contest against an always tricky Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, a club that is contesting the Euroleague Final Four later this month. Zenit St. Petersburg overcame Avtodor Saratov to reach the semi-final of the VTB United League.

The interesting thing about the last eight stage is that each of the progressing clubs managed to sweep their respective series’. Hardly a mean feat considering the strength in depth in this competition.

Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar vs. Khimki Moscow Region, 71-86

Khimki Moscow Region roared into the semi-final and is now chasing its second VTB United League final in succession. The club overcame Lokomotiv on the road in Game 3 to sweep the series, largely thanks to the starting five contributing 63 points.

With home court advantage, Lokomotiv was arguably confident of continuing the series and making it 2-1, through the first quarter the hosts led 23-22. The slender lead soon evaporated as Khimki took the second frame 19-22 for a 42-44 advantage through the long break. The game was decided in the third act as Khimki continued the momentum and punished the hosts with a 10-26. The visitors led 52-70 through thirty minutes and eased through the fourth quarter to victory.

Tyrese Rice led the win with 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists, while Zoran Dragic topped the scoring with 21 points and Alexey Shved contributed 18 points to Khimki. Josh Boone had a game to remember with 17 points, 9 boards, and 5 scoring passes.

Maxim Kolyushkin topped Lokomotiv with 19 points, followed by Andrey Zubkov with 15 points.

Avtodor Saratov vs. Zenit St. Petersburg, 82-95

Zenit had far too much for Avtodor as the club eased into the semifinal with a cruising road win to a complete a series sweep over the Saratov club. Shooting from the field was Zenit’s strong point as the starters scored 70 points, with only 15 of the overall haul coming in the paint.

The teams traded in the first quarter, but the visitors gained a bucket extra to lead 19-20 as the first buzzer sounded. The second quarter remained tight as both teams picked up the scoring, but Zenit had the extra gear and a 22-24 period meant the club led 41-44 heading in at halftime. In the third quarter the teams once again traded scores in a high octane 25-25 stanza, which meant the deficit remained at 3 points with Q4 to come (66-69). Avtodor was close enough to mount a comeback, but it soon collapsed as Zenit claimed the fourth act 16-26 to ease to victory.

Jannis Timma added 18 points and 9 caroms to the success, while Zabian Dowdell scored 16 points and laid 8 assists. Pavel Antipov also scored 16 points and Ryan Toolson contributed 13 points.

Artem Kilmenko was almost a solo attacking threat for Saratov, claiming the only double digit haul in the team on his way to a game high 29 points.

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