Loko beats the leader

Having taken the lead in the first quarter, Lokomotiv Kuban, although happened to be thrilling, brought the match against UNICS to victory – 90:82.

The game began with a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the Crocus City Hall disaster. The entertainment program was also reduced: no game consoles and face painting in the lobby, no cheerleading in the arena; though, mascot Zubbi took pictures with everyone, but did not go out onto the floor to excite the audience.

Lokoquiz was also cancelled, but if it had still taken place, then it would have been possible to add a question that hardly anyone guessed: “Who will open the score in this game?” The answer was Vladislav Odinokov – he did it from behind the 3-point line.

Loko’s attack went so-so in the first minutes: during the first 3 minutes, apart from two extra-difficult nets by DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, there was nothing. However, when the score was 4:7, Vladislav Yemchenko snatched the ball from Nenad Dimitrijević and passed it to Jaylen Barford into the fast break; seconds later Okaro White made an interception, throwing pass to Kirill Elatontsev to dunk – that’s how Lokomotiv took the lead, 8:7.

At that time, the teams guarded their posts well, and for several minutes both opponents scored only 3-pointers (Dimitrijević – Yemchenko – Marcos Knight, respectfully). With the score 13:13, Patrick Miller made his debut for Loko – the 185-centimeter 100-kilos-guy quickly found a foul and made both free throws to rejoice 3,000 spectators. In the next two attacks, Maurice Ndour scored 4 points from Miller’s passes, and at the end of the quarter the newcomer scored 1 more point (for the opponents technical foul) – well, quite a decent debut! And what’s even nicer is that Loko won the opening quarter (25:17), for the first time this season against UNICS!

In the first 2 minutes of the next game segment, no team missed a single shot. With the score 31:21, Akoon-Purcell broke the interchange – he quietly crept up to Dimitrijević, took the ball away from him and ran to the defenseless hoop – these 2 points forced Velimir Perasović to take a time out. Apparently, Reynolds was impressed by his coach’s speech, scoring two 3-pointers in a row ć now it’s only 33:27 in favor of Loko. That seemed to boost Andrei Martyuk’s activity: he scored two free throws, and then, in an elegantly designed counterattack, passed the ball right into the hands of Kirill Temirov – it’s a pity that he was on the bench at that moment.

Nevertheless, the hosts confidently managed to keep UNICS at a distance – after White’s long-range hit, the score became 40:30. The guests scored 4 points in a row, but Akoon-Purcell scored the same amount within 19 seconds (the first episode – his alley-oop with Barford – will probably be included into Moment of the week hit-parade). At the very end of the quarter, Akoon-Purcell made the stands applause once again, hammering the ball into the hoop after Dmitry Uzinsky’s interception. The teams went to the break with the score 48:41 in favor of the Krasnodar team.

The next ten minutes began with White and Knight badly colliding under the Loko hoop. Following the episode, one of the most important players for UNICS asked for a substitution. Miller’s assists continued to disclose Ndour’s sniper skills; Reynolds scored 3-pointers every time Loko’s lead reached 10 points – 63:56 at the quarter’s equator.

The Kazan team let all its big guys on the floor simultaneously. That made Loko time after time run into the forest of the opponent’s arms and bodies, and UNICS slowly caught up – and snapped the lead by the end of the quarter. So, we will see another clutch?

In the first possession after the resumption of play, Miller equalized – it was exactly the kind of powerhouse break-ins using the shortest possible trajectory that we saw in his highlights. Eric Green responded by scoring from behind the 3-point line (when did he manage to score 22 points already?!), but Akoon-Purcell did the same – 72:72! Reynolds fouled in the attack, but Yelatontsev was unable to catch Miller’s pass under the opponent’s hoop. Kirill, however, quickly redeemed, first de-balling Dimitrijević, then putting the ball into the hoop in the last second of possession. Green equalized – and then another Kirill, Temirov, hit the goal from afar. Green again made a shot for an equal score – nope! And Miller (hail the newbie!) drilled into the very thickness of the opponent’s defense and made it! 79:74 – Perasović time-out.

Then another Loko player switched the superhero mode on: within 23 seconds, Akoon-Purcell scored a 3-pointer, made a steal and scored another 3 points – 87:76 with 4 minutes left!

After that, Loko, if wrestling terms are appropriate here, took the game to the ground – no one managed to score for a minute and a half. Eventually, Reynolds made 2 points. In response attack, Barford seemed to have driven himself into very hard position – but scored from long range at the end of 24 seconds of possession, 90:79!

Reynolds brought UNICS back into the game with his fifth accurate three-pointer of the match – 90:82 with 74 seconds left. But just a bit later he fell out the court with the ball, ruining his team hopes. Perasović tried to stretch the final seconds with timeouts, but outplaying the 8-point margin in such a short time was beyond miracle.

Loko won – and came within two victories of leading CSKA and UNICS. Everything is still possible until the end of the regular season! Now Lokomotiv-Kuban is going on the road to face CSKA (April 1) and PARMA (April 4). The next home game is scheduled on April 9 – against Zenit. See you in the stands!

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