Three games were on tap Sunday as Round 31 of the VTB United League 2015-16 regular season winds to a close. Kalev/Cramo defeated Tsmoki-Minsk. As expected Lokomotiv Kuban was able to hold off VEF Riga for the home win, 71-63. Arguably, the most important game of the trio was between two Russian clubs, Zenit St. Petersburg and Unics Kazan. Zenit made the most of its home court advantage and outgunned their guests en route to an 89-65 victory. With playoff qualifications virtually firmed up, the key now for the Top 8 teams is to position themselves for ideal match-ups in quater-finals via seeding. At times teams can build momentum in the post-season thanks to ideal or preferred first-round match-ups. So every win, and loss, for these teams could alter the playoff landscape. Recent wins by Lokomotiv Kuban and Zenit St. Petersburg have lifted their records to 22-7 they are now currently in third and fourth places in the league standings. Interestingly enough, Lokomotiv Kuban and Zenit are set to lock horns on the 28th. The Top 4 picture could change after that game. Unics, which is currently in second place, dropped only their fifth game of the regular season. The loss was not of significant consequence to them, with the second seed locked up and secured.
Zenit had a solid balanced attack throughout the contest. The hosts set up a 23-20 lead at the end of the first quarter. While Unics got the better of their opponents, 33-30, it was Zenit that managed to shoot the ball better from all over the court. They notched better shooting percentages from two-point range, three-point range, and also at the free-throw line. This shooting discrepancy was evident in the second quarter, when Zenit expanded on their lead for a 51-39 halftime advantage.
The second half was all Zenit as Unics was unable to turn the tide and momentum in their favor. Both teams slowed down in the third frame, posting the lowest scoring quarter of the game 15-14. The fourth period was when Zenit blew the game wide open and Unics was just dominated.
Janis Timma led five Zenit players to score in double figures with 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting from 2-point range. Anton Pushkov added 15 points, while Zabian Dowdell and Nikita Barinov each chipped in 12 points.
Latavious Williams was the top scorer for Unics with 15 points. Artsiom Parakhouski put up a solid double-double performance with 12 points and 11 boards.
All eyes will be on the Zenit-Lokomotiv game. Which team will pull ahead and take a clear step into the Top 3?