Andrei Martyuk, who had been knocked out by Jalen Reynolds seconds before, was slowly rising from the floor, rubbing his bruised jaw. Egor Sychkov and Grigory Shukhovtsov slowly made their way over the boards. The rest of the Krasnodar players shook hands with UNICS officials in a calm and routine manner. No shouting, no jumping, no waving towels or jackets, no throwing caps in the air. From the outside, you’d never know that Loko had just won a championship series instead of an ordinary preseason game.
Step by step. If Loko had a stone carver on the coaching staff, that would be the motto engraved on a huge granite slab and installed in the locker room for the entire season. It’s well known that the last step is the hardest one. When applied to basketball’s multi-series finals, this is doubly true. “But calmly – he still has three-quarters of the way to go.” Like the hero of a Vysotsky song, Loko’s players have taken just one step out of four so far. And it is very important that they keep their composure and coolness of a rope-walker.
Tomorrow, under their feet, the rope will sway, sprawl into fibers and, quite possibly, burn. Kazan citizens are pinned against the wall of their stunning Kremlin. Kazan, in full accordance with the nature of their mascot, will be ferocious and vigilant dragons guarding their ring and dragons jetting and flying to dive the Loko ring. Not to fall into the abyss of individual play with all these components of tomorrow’s game, not to be distracted by communication with the refs, and not to lose precious percentages of three-pointers and free throws is the most important task for Loko’s players.
Krasnodar’s fans are another matter – calmness is absolutely contraindicated for them. They’re already beautiful for having made it to Kazan and managing to solve their accommodation problems, even though the hotels in the capital of Tatarstan are packed to the brim with guests. But one more effort is needed. Tomorrow we must make a lot of noise, shouting and yelling, not shutting up for a second. Naturally, without insulting the hosts and their team, but like Yevgeny Leonov’s kooky character – cheerfully, good-naturedly, with all sorts of harmless tricks.
And we encourage everyone else to follow the match on your TV, computer, smartphone, and programmable calculator screens. The game will be broadcast live on Match TV, the Start channel, and the VTB United League and lokobasket.com websites. The starting throw-in will take place at 15:00.