Loko had their best game of the season and led 3-2 in the series against CSKA

Lokomotiv-Kuban won the fifth game of the series on the road against CSKA. The club can play their way into the final on April 28 in Basket Hall at 20:00. We can't miss this game!

Before the game, CSKA center Nikola Milutinov received the VTB United League general director, Ilona Korstin, award for most valuable player of the season. Looking ahead, that was the last time this game the Serbian giant appeared on the floor, not counting the warm-up at halftime.

Livio Jean-Charles made his first basket for CSKA, but the visitors usurped his right to the basket for four minutes. Alexander Shcherbenev created a foul situation and converted it; Okaro White and Andrey Martyuk made nice exchanges, putting the ball in the basket after each other’s misses; Jalen Barford hit a three-pointer as time expired on the shot clock. With the score tied at 9-3, home team head coach Emil Rajkovic called a timeout. But after another long-distance shot, this time by DeVaughn Akun-Purcell, the lead grew again, to 12-3. He made three power runs in a row to give Loko an even bigger lead, 21-5.


Of course, CSKA is certainly not a team to put up its paws like a big furry cat after eight minutes. Dallas Moore scored 5 points on one possession, cutting the Loko lead to +9. Zakhar Vedischev scored just in time and from behind the arc, and then Vladislav Emchenko found Anton Kvitkovskikh with a grandmaster pass – again a double-digit lead, “+14” by the end of the period. Dmitri Uzinski also put the ball in the basket from above after a missed shot by Akun-Purcell – alas, a fraction of a second later than the buzzer that the quarter was over.

Needless to say, the statistical record showed that the visitors were completely outscored in every area during that stretch. Particularly impressive was the assists column: 7 to 1!

CSKA got a little swayed by the knockdown. Ukhov – a great shooter, by the way – missed two free throws from two. Weir, left alone on the arc on the early possession, was too embarrassed – when was that ever the case? – to shoot right away. Nevertheless, even after the visitors failed to score on two straight possessions, Loko head coach Aleksandar Sekulic called a timeout and demanded even more aggression and patience from his men. Barford first celebrated his steal with a beautiful overhead shot, then converted a three-pointer. 37-17 – “+20” in the 14th minute!

By the way, before the game, Alexander Scherbenev, speculating about why all games in the series are decided in the final seconds, logically noted that it would be good to lead CSKA with a solid lead – but only the Army team would surely have an opinion on that as well. Well, I think Loko fans would have happily opted for another heartbreakingly bad endgame win.

CSKA scored six straight points. CSKA threatened with Shved and constant fouls on him. But Martyuk, a smart Martyuk who had made 3 of 4 in the series, scored his first three-pointer of the semifinals! A few plays later Akun-Purcell doubled his success with a foul. 44-24, what a beauty on the scoreboard!

Martyuk got on top of Astapkovic and frightened Devonte Kaycock, who missed first his half-court shot with about a meter left, and then both free throws. Rajkovic began to pull some unexpected trumps up his sleeve, throwing in Samson Ruzhentsev and Anton Komolov. That added a measure of freshness and energy for the Army team, but Barford continued to find and convert chances for himself and Emchenko for his teammates. A 17-point lead at the big break wasn’t a bad start for the new legend.

The Loko coaching staff did a fantastic job of building their defense against Weir and Shved. Both super-snipers were 0 for 6 from the field by halftime. At the same time, Krasnodar played with both reserves and reserves – they hit just 2 free throws, while the home team hit 16, 8 times as many!

Of course, one would have been naive to expect Weir and Shved to continue their diet after the break. The American sharpshooter converted his first shot of the third quarter. But Martyuk responded with a nice pass to White – there’s a two-handed dunk!

The Army team continued to amass a generous crop of free throws – and not very confident in executing them, hovering around 60%. Martyuk, on the other hand, continued to be useful underneath both boards, dribbling in and out of turnovers. CSKA had someone to grab baskets on offense as well – Ruzhentsev turned a two-handed shot from beyond the arc, turning his teammate’s missed shot into the most spectacular play of the game so far.

With the ratio of free throws made 24-2 in favor of CSKA, the home team’s lead dropped to 10. As of 25 minutes, it was down to -8. This was the decisive phase of the game: Either the CSKA’s pursuit paid off here and now, or Loko could find counterarguments to push their opponent to a relatively safe distance again.

As soon as Sekulic made two steps toward the referees to learn their opinion on why the foul on Emchenko on the second attempt was ruled inadmissible, Chief Umpire Ilya Putenko immediately issued a technical foul on the Slovenian. While Yemchenko was eventually given a legal free throws…

The Army arena cheered, all the more so because during those minutes, Ruzhentsev was a true Samson, grabbing rebounds and scoring in droves. And then Shved shot from the field – just 57-50 in favor of the visitors – and the game would take forever.

Emchenko, for the umpteenth time this season, took over the lead. The Loko guard battled for rebounds, hauled in the ball, chewed up the floor on defense, and was effective in driving routes. On top of that, Zakhar Vedischev dribbled around the Army team’s pressure flags and coolly led Akun-Purcell to a clean three-pointer. The American even had time to text his family before the shot to say, “Hurry up and watch the broadcast on! – 62:50.

Kvitkovskikh in his trademark style dribbled over the entire CSKA defense and took away the virtual award for the most beautiful dunk of the evening from Ruzhentsev, and Vedischev scored on a hard pass – +16! And as the buzzer sounded at the end of the quarter, Akun-Purcell made a killer three-pointer to make it 69-50. True, a 19-point advantage in the series does not guarantee victory. Proven by … Loko’s players in game three of the series.

The final quarter melted away, but the Army team’s pursuit slowly began to take shape. The visitors only scored a point in 3 minutes – but they killed every time on offense with discipline and made up for the missed shots with stout defense. However, when Kaycock, the main joker of the series, unscrewed, it became alarming again – only 70:57. As weird as that “only” sounded for a +13 on the road (!!!) against CSKA (!!!) in the final quarter (!!!)…

But Martyuk scored again, and with a great pass to White on a defenseless basket, Shcherbenev was “+17” again and headed to the finals as normal.

With 2.5 minutes to go, Shcherbenev nailed the final and irrevocable three-pointer to the Army team’s ambitions. Krasnodar didn’t allow CSKA to pull off anything else. As a result, it was the best game of the season and one of the best games in the club’s history. It was an excellent opportunity to reach the finals on the home court. April, 28, 20:00 p.m., Basket Hall. Tickets at, but they’ll be gone soon.

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