Lokomotiv Kuban will host UNICS in the Game of the Week on Sunday.
Place: Russia, Krasnodar, Basket Hall
Time: March 19, 15:00 (Moscow time)
Broadcast: TV Start, Match! Igra, League Website
Loko and UNICS has almost the longest rivalry history in the League. The teams played 39 times and before the start of this season, the game score was 18:18. But 2 wins in 3 games helped UNICS to take the lead – 20:19.
Loko and UNICS played in the last 2 playoffs – and the Kazan team prevailed. In 2021, UNICS stopped the Krasnodar team in the semi-finals (3-0), and in the 2021/22 season beat Loko in the 3rd place series (3-1).
By the first game in the 2022/23 season in October, the teams had in different positions: UNICS shared the 1st place with CSKA, Loko closed the Top-8. But Lokomotiv fought with a more experienced opponent till the end. UNICS had a double-digit lead several times, but the Krasnodar team returned the intrigue and even started the fourth quarter with a slight advantage. At the same time, UNICS sinned with losses, and the team leader Jalen Reynolds disappeared – he scored only 1 point in 17 minutes.
But the Krasnodar team scored only 9 points in the foruth quarter. At the decisive moment, UNICS guard Nenad Dimitrijevic made 2 three-poinets and Loko had no reply on that.
A month later, the teams met played Krasnodar, but the expectations did not concide with reality. UNICS led by 20 in the first quarter already and by the halftime the difference reached 29 points (21:50). Loko slightly reduced this gap, but UNICS win still looked confident – 82:70.
But in February in Kazan, the teams seemed to have changed places. Loko took the lead from the start and won each of the quarters. By the halftime, the difference was 14 points and UNICS trailed by 33 points at the end. 70:103 – this is the biggest Kazan team lose with Velimir Perasovic.
This lose seriously affected UNICS 1st place potential. The Kazan team quickly rehabilitated with wins over Pari NN and CSKA, but after the All-Star Game, the team lost 3 games in a row.
As a result, Velimir Perasovic team had to think about securing the 2nd place from Zenit, who had gained a good pace. After the home win over MBA, UNICS will definitely finish the regular season on the 2nd place.
Loko has clearly not shown its maximum since the last game with the Kazan team. Aleksander Sekulic team was 4rth at a certain stage of the second stage, but 4 loses in 6 games affected the team place – Loko is behind Pari NN and now retains rather theoretical chances to rise above the 5th place.
UNICS became the 2nd 2 weeks before the end of the regular season. In the quarterfinals, the Kazan team will playwith the best team of the Group B – PARMA-PARI, Avtodor or Samara.
Loko’s opponent in the first round of the playoffs has already been determined – Pari Nizhny Novgorod. But who will have the home court advantage remains the question. So far, Nizhny Novgorod (17-13) is ahead in the standigs, and any Pari NN win or Loko lose will leave the Krasnodar team in the 5th place.
Stats and leaders
UNICS looks much stronger. The Kazan team is second (after CSKA) in performance with 85.9 points per game and second (after Zenit) in defense, allowing opponents to score an average 74.8 points. In addition, Velimir Perasovic team is in the Top 3 in tshooting percentage (48.6%) and turnovers (13.3 – less only for CSKA and Zenit).
Loko almost the best in rebounds with 37.2 per game. At the same time, the Krasnodar team leads the season in steals (8,9), and in defense it plays not much worse than its rivass, letting opponents score 76,9 points.
But both teams have problems with three-point percentage. UNICS made 34.9%, Loko has only 31.8% – only MINSK has less in the 2022/23 season.
Both teams have players aiming to score points. In UNICS, Daryl Macon is second in the best scoring players list – 18.1 per game. Loko has Jaylen Barford (16.7 points) and DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell (14.3).
Also, Louis Labeyrie and Chris Horton rivalrywill be interesting, who are in the Top-10 in rebounds.
Okaro White helped UNICS reach the United League finals in the 2021/22 season. And this winter, the forward joined Loko and played 5 games for the Krasnodar team. However, Okaro is not impressive with stats yet – 4 points and 3.8 rebounds on average in 19 minutes.