Loko was stopped by CSKA

After missing the decisive run by the opponent in the 3rd quarter, Lokomotiv-Kuban lost to CSKA on the road – 73:86.

No other opponent have Loko played in the Alexander Sekulić era as often as with CSKA: since October 2022, today’s game between them was already the 16th. As Sekulić’s assistant Jurica Žuža said before the game, “we know everything about them, they know everything about us; so the outcome will be decided by who will fight tougher and work better in defense”.

The game in the first minutes completely confirmed Žuža’s words: both teams built a tight defense under their hoops, forcing the opponent to shoot from behind the 3-point line. CSKA missed its first 6 long-range attempts, and Loko made it thrice via DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell (twice) and Okaro White. The guests didn’t get a big lead only because of a very large number of turnovers – 7 by the 7th minute. In addition, the players of the Krasnodar team fouled much more often, and after two successful free throws by Olivier Hanlan, CSKA led 16:13 a minute and a half before the end of the opening quarter. However, the last word in this period took Maurice Ndour, who deftly slipped under the opponent’s hoop and turned Jaylen Barford’s pass into assist – 15:16.

In the second quarter, the opponents seemed to change roles: CSKA began to make turnovers, hit three-pointers and foul a lot. And for Loko, Andrei Martyuk burst into the game brilliantly. In a matter of minutes, the Krasnodar center scored 10 points, dominating in both posts – 5 rebounds in the quarter! The guests’ advantage in this component allowed them to take the lead and then to consolidate the advantage at around 8-10 points.

At the same time, the scoring was low – at the playoff level. Both teams switched not just to pressing, but to hardcore variety of this method, sticking to the opponent already on his own half of the court. The Loko supporters could be heard better and better on the background of the silent Megasport stands. The teams went into the long break with the score 43:35 in favor of the Krasnodar team.

But for a team like CSKA it is not a big deal to outrun 8 points. Or even 9 points, which margin appeared on the scoreboard when Vladislav Yemchenko responded with a long-range hit to the mid-range one by Livio Jean-Charles. Then the Moscow team successfully defended three times in a row – and now it’s only 46:44 in favor of Loko.

Patrick Miller from four meters and Akun-Purcell from behind the 3-point line made the margin great again, but Melo Trimble scored 2+1 in one attack, Jean-Charles and Hanlan scored a 3 pointer each, then the same Hanlan slalomed under the hoop – and now CSKA is ahead , 54:53. It seemed that the hosts had found the keys to Loko’s defense: as if not noticing the scoring efforts of Miller and Akoon-Purcell, the home team scored any which way. Nikita Kurbanov summed up the CSKA 32:16 run in the 3rd quarter with a shot from eight meters – 67:59 overall.

At the very start of the 4th quarter, Semyon Antonov made the hosts’ advantage double-digit from the distance. And after two more 3-pointers by Ivan Ukhov, the gap reached “–17”, 61:78. The “big” CSKA players at these moments completely deprived Martyuk and Kirill Elatontsev of their freedom of action. Martyuk, however, scored two more points in a throw with a 180-degree turn. But in general, Loko’s shots stopped going into the hoop almost completely, even in situations that seemed close to one hundred percent.

In the final minutes, the Loko players did not manage to make a run that could have leveled the situation. The Krasnodar team suffered its 11th defeat of the season and remained in 4th place in the standings. The next match is on April 4 in Perm, starting at 17:30 Moscow time.

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