Both matches with the army this season, calling things by their proper names, the wards of Alexander Sekulich failed – it did not reach the endings, the red and blue secured victories in advance. Moreover, in the Moscow meeting they did it without their two main stars – Alexey Shved and Nikola Milutinov. The bench of the Army is long and powerful, the game is set – and the record-breaking series of 24 winning matches in the history of the VTB United League since the beginning of the regular season is the most obvious confirmation of this. However, all good things come to an end sometime, and in the last round CSKA lost to Zenit on its site.
Is this result a plus or a minus for Loco? Probably still in the negative. On the one hand, the army needs to take revenge urgently. In addition, if they lose, the fight for the first place according to the results of the regular season will enter a completely acute phase. You can, of course, say-assume that, on the other hand, after the defeat from Zenit, the psychological confidence of the army men in their own abilities was shaken – but I’m rereading this phrase now and I understand how stupid it sounds. The Swede, Milutinov, Nikita Kurbanov and Casper Ware, who almost does not miss in the endings, have such a colossal experience and margin of safety that it is necessary to pierce their emotional armor from a 406 mm cannon.
But how to sleep after the grotesque loss from “Pari NN” to the young and middle-aged players of “Loko” (recall, the red–greens led “+9” 75 seconds before the end of the fourth period, but managed to concede) is a big question. Still, so far the main complaint both to the game of the Krasnodar team as a whole for the season and in individual matches is precisely psychological instability. It seems that in two brilliantly conducted and won away matches in St. Petersburg and Kazan, the team got rid of this problem (against UNICS, Loko won all 4 quarters at all and won in the end with a crushing difference of “+33”), but against Nizhny Novgorod, the virus under the conditional name “up and down” is loud again reminded me of myself.
- Do you think the Loko players managed to recover emotionally for the match with CSKA? – a question to the coach of the Krasnodar team Stanislav Zbarsky.
- – We had several meetings, which, I think, cheered up the team quite well. Yes, the defeat was painful. But our players are professionals, they understand that after that loss, life does not end. Living in the past is a failed strategy. The main thing is that the coaching staff and management have done serious work on the mistakes. We learned an important lesson from the defeat, and this is important before the decisive part of the season. But I will add that playing against such an opponent as CSKA does not require extra motivation. Therefore, losing to Nizhny Novgorod residents will not affect the emotional state of the players in any way – except that it will add additional anger to them. By the way, today the team will also go to the ITC after morning training. There the players will have lunch and sleep. And from there we will all go to the game together by bus. It is very important that the guys are not distracted by anything today, so that they feel like a single team all day.
- CSKA is the most productive team of the season (97.0 points scored on average per match). What do army men most often play in attack and at the expense of what – or whom – is it so effective?
- – The army has a very balanced attack. The roles are very clearly distributed in the team. CSKA has great players who react well to any situation on the court. The first attacking option is Alexey Shved with the ball in his hands. The second and third, respectively, are Dallas Moore and Casper Ware. These are the three main "ballhandlers" of the red and blue. But the main threat in the attack comes, of course, still from the Swede. He plays pick-and-rolls the most, but first of all he tries to create an attack for himself, based on the situation that his opponent offers him. He looks at the attack option – either a throw, or in a straight line makes a pass under the ring. If there are no opportunities for this, he will create a situation for advantage by gathering protection for himself, and will give a pass to the perimeter. CSKA is probably by far the best VTB United League team by the way they share the ball – they move it around the perimeter and find a free partner, constantly making this extra pass. This is the strongest side of the army – to find the best situation for an open throw, reacting to aggressive defense. That is, if the rotation in defense is a little late, an open throw will definitely follow.
- Can we say that the Swede-Milutin pair is the strongest bond not only among Russian clubs, but also among Euroleague clubs?
- – The best or not – it's hard to say. But they are definitely in the top. At the same time, I would not forget about Jean-Charles Livio, who fit perfectly into the picture of the CSKA game. He is showing himself to be a versatile player this year. He plays in the positions of 4 and 5 numbers, has a good average throw, completes all his chances from under the ring, which makes him an extremely uncomfortable opponent to defend. He has demonstrated all this at a high level in recent matches. Actually, in the Moscow game with us, Livio was the best on the court – 25 points (shots from the game – 12 out of 14) and 10 rebounds.
- What can be said about the opponent's defense?
- – CSKA has two main forms of protection. One is aggressive, they use it when Livio is on the court. They play with a Frenchman for a spade. The second option is with Milutinov. It is usually located below the level of the barrier. He can, of course, also play aggressively and spade, but most often still stays closer to the ring. And yet, the main thing that can determine the success of Loko today is the neutralization of the Swede in the attack. After all, he not only scores himself, but also creates convenient situations for partners.
- I will now argue from an amateur point of view – and you will interrupt the chain of my reasoning if they go somewhere completely in the Trans-Baikal steppe. The Swede's defense is not the strongest side of the game. Weir – in defense, in principle, is aggressive, tenacious, and physically strong enough, but his height is only 178 centimeters. Perhaps Loko should build their attacks with the first option through the player the Swede is holding? And against Ware to put two-meter Vladislav Yemchenko or other high defenders on the "mustache"? In addition to the advantage in attack, the obvious benefit of this plan will be that the Swede and Weir, spending a lot of energy in defense, will not be so effective in attack…
- – You are actually saying everything correctly. Yes, the Swede is incredibly creative and effective in attack, so sometimes he allows himself to rest in defense. But there are players in CSKA who back him up. The same Nikita Kurbanov, Deyan Davidovac, Ivan Ukhov, Anton Astapkovich give aggression in defense. But in general, yes, it is necessary to look for a Swede on pick-and-rolls in the attack. This can bring its own bonuses. We have to use it – just like all the other teams are trying to do. Against Ware, you need to make good barriers and look for exchanges. But here I should add that he is more aggressive, which makes this task more difficult.
- How did Okaro White look in training yesterday and today? Is he ready to get some minutes on the court already in the match against CSKA?
- – It's up to the head coach to decide. But White will be in the application for the match. Yes, of course, White hasn't quite joined the team's offensive philosophy yet. But this is a very experienced basketball player who reads the game well, and who once again does not need to explain anything - especially when it comes to defense. He always "reads" the opponent's players well, he is a real fighter, always gives his best. It will not be difficult for him to join the team quickly.
…It is already obvious that today at the match the fans will set a season record in attendance. However, a small number of tickets are still on sale – so if you want to get to the supermatch, you need to buy them right now. We remind you that the game will be charity – all profits from the sale of tickets and paraphernalia of the PBK “Lokomotiv-Kuban” will be directed to the maintenance of children’s basketball and sports schools of the Krasnodar Territory.
The game will be broadcast on the websites lokobasket.com and VTB United League, as well as on TV channels “Match! Game” and “TV Start”.