Loko tied the series with CSKA!

In a dramatic final, Lokomotiv-Kuban defeated CSKA, 84-83!

From the opening minutes, Loko got the initiative from DeVaughn Purcell (predictable) and Okaro White (somewhat surprising). The latter kept up his pace and size with Dejan Davidovac, scoring 9 points in 7.5 minutes. Almost all five of the CSKA team’s starters made their usual cartwheels, but Alexei Shved was especially accurate early on, hitting his only shot on average and all four free throws.

In contrast to their first game – and indeed of all their playoff games in the 2023 playoffs – Loko didn’t initially do well on three-pointers, making only two of their 10 attempts in the opening quarter. The visitors could not deny their effort and dedication, however, which resulted in a -1 lead in the first 10 minutes.

In the middle of the second quarter, Loko took the lead – Vladislav Emchenko played patiently and created a field goal for a completely free Alexander Scherbenev, 28-27. However, the Army team trailed by five straight points, and Aleksandr Sekulic was forced to take a timeout.

Having heard the boss’s instructions, the Army team quickly regained their balance. But Shved scored from beyond the arc, Milutinov split free throws, Andrei Martiuk went to the bench with three fouls and CSKA went back to within five points. Again, just like the day before yesterday, the Loko bench called for a shutout, and again with success!  White thanked Ivan Paunic (the loudest voice on the court, “99 percent!”) for his sharp eye and vigilance, with an accurate three-pointer and two free throws – 39-37, already in favor of the Red and Green. Akun-Purcell also sealed the curtain of the first half with a successful three-pointer – “+5” for the visitors by halftime.

Dmitri Uzinsky, who had a fiery third quarter in game 1, came out of the locker room with a positive charge this time as well – two steals and an accurate three-pointer. Scherbenev made a nice layup for Kasper Weir, so much so that the diminutive Army team leader pleaded guilty to a technical foul. Then Loko’s point guard picked up the loose ball and allowed Akun-Purcell to get the lead to 11 points – 50-39. In a hushed Megasport, this time with only about a quarter of the crowd, the visiting fan sector was audible, useful, and active.

Deja vu – Weir scored five straight points again, starting CSKA’s comeback… First, he made an incredible three-pointer as time expired, then he didn’t miss from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, the Loko players missed three clean long-range shots in a row, while Akun-Purcell had to take a long rest with 16 points and four fouls.

Only 4 of Loko’s 11 points left in the lead. Emchenko was not afraid to take on the burden of responsibility – but, after earning free throws on a hard pass, he missed both of his free throws.

What character did Emchenko develop from his time on the bench that fall! The next Loko attack – again a pass from the fiery guard, this time with a result! The next possession was another pass to open Anton Kvitkovskikh, 58-53 in favor of the visitors!

Passions were running high. The referees called an intentional foul on Devonte Cacocca, who fell on him, and moments later the ball was touched by the Loko defense after a foul on Shved’s pass. Together, the Army team tied the game at 62-62 at the end of the quarter.

Zakhar Vedischev hit a three-pointer to make it 67-66, with the visitors in front again! But after two free throws from the line by Chris Horton, Livio Jean-Charles made an accurate long-range shot to CSKA’s lead of 69-67. Vedischev missed again from beyond the arc – but, unfortunately, that was followed by two more missed shots by the visitors.

Vedischev scored again, this time on a pass. Again it was 77-77, a tough score for Moscow. The seconds of the game were ticking away, the question of the winner kept hanging in the air.

With a minute and a half to go, Loko’s chances of winning looked better, 84-81, after White’s three-pointer. On the ensuing possession, Ware briefly abdicated his role as an evil genius and missed the shot from beyond the arc. Milutinov appeared to sprain his ankle on the rebound and left the floor. With 67 seconds to play, the visitors had possession.

The Loko seemed to find Akun-Purcell under the basket – but Jean-Charles grounded him with a blocked shot without a foul. In return, Shved quickly converted a baseline shot, giving Loko a one-point lead. Krasnodar didn’t score again, leaving CSKA with timeouts in addition to possessions and five seconds to play on offense. But the ineffective Barford got White the ball and CSKA the win!

The series is tied 1-1. The third and fourth games will be held in Krasnodar on April 20 and 22.

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