The visitors had little success over the first three minutes. Kazan answered Dmitri Uzinsky’s only accurate three-pointer with a pair of floaters by the still phenomenal Nenad Dimitrijevic, a dunk by Vince Hunter, and a long-range shot by Darryl Macon.
Zakhar Vedischev came off the bench to sharpen up his game and cut the lead to zero with a long-distance three-pointer. The visitors increased their ball movement, offensive rebounding, and defensive aggression. DeVaughn Akun-Purcell took over for the first time in the 8th minute, giving the Red and Green the lead at 16-15.
Loko players got beaten, but they didn’t waste energy on unnecessary emotions. Andriy Martyuk scored, and Vladislav Emchenko followed suit – +3. True, the quarter ended with Jalen Reynolds not only scoring twice in a row, but also retrieving the ball, which was about to fall through the net, by the virtual bunny ears of UNICS.
Emchenko and Martyuk scored again, giving the visitors a 3-point lead. Alexander Shcherbenyov forced two fouls on his teammates, and the score was “+6. That, of course, didn’t mean much in the game, but still was pleasing to the eye and looked encouraging. On top of that, Jalen Barford threw a interception and sent Chris Horton to the hoop for a fastbreak layup, 36-28.
Kazan became more assertive in their contact with the Loko attackers, and their advantage began to melt like a March snowball. Still, even “+5” at halftime wasn’t exactly a plus-five, but it wasn’t bad anyway.
The first 100 seconds after the break were not good at all for Loko. The hosts went on a 8-0 run, 45-42, in their favor. Before Vedischev, Akun Purcell and Anton Kvitkovskikh stepped on the floor, their teammates had evened the score, 49-49.
A little later, it was “+6” again: DeVon Akun-Purcell hung in the air longer than it takes to spell his first and last name. The ball then slipped out of Loko’s armpits a few times, until Kvitkovskikh and Vedischev once again reminded of their sniper and three-point talents. 63-56 – and another UNICS timeout.
…Once again the hosts’ ring was bewitched by the evil Hottabych. Within three seconds Martyuk, Kvitkovskikh and Emchenko hit five shots from a few centimeters distance – but the ball mockingly refused to dive into the net as a goldfish. Only “+4” for the final quarter…
We also had an astounding 15 offensive rebounds in the first half hour of play time – but, as noted above, the visitors often failed to score those notorious second-third-fourth chance points.
For a long time in the fourth quarter, Loko’s lead remained in the 2-4 point range. Marcus Knight was a powerful knight on the court for UNICS, while the visitors split the points between them all. Finally, Emchenko and Barford shifted the balance in the right direction, 74-67 with 5 minutes to go.
Horton was a smart, hard worker and fighter, first on defense, then on offense: “+10” – Sekulic’s lead reached double digits for the first time in the game!
The visitors couldn’t keep up their pace, as Loko soon found themselves trailing by 14. That’s far from the record “+33,” set here in Kazan’s Basket Hall in the third round of the regular season, but just enough for game one of the finals. Krasnodar led 1-0 in the final series. The next game is also in the capital of Tatarstan on May, 8 at 15:00.