Loko loses to Zenit and stays 4th

In a tense and dramatic fight, Lokomotiv Kuban lost to Zenit (86:91). This is the first defeat of the season for the Krasnodar team at home in regular time.

From the very first seconds, the opponents’ different approaches to moving the ball became obvious. These approaches, however, were quite expected: Zenit deployed its attacks slowly, making full use of 24 seconds; Loko, on the contrary, increased the pace to the maximum. The hosts’ tactics initially looked more effective: after three dunks from DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, Andrey Martyuk and Maurice Ndour, the Krasnodar team led 6:3 by the 4th minute, forcing Xavi Pascual to take timeout. And as soon as Kyle Kuric leveled the score with a long-range shot, Okaro White made a series of 5 points. A little later, Jaylen Barford added 3 more, completing a swift and elegant counterattack – 14:8 by the middle of the opening quarter.

But after Martyuk and Ndour left the court to rest a bit, things started to go better for the guests, and soon Alexander Sekulić had to take a time-out – after the opponent took the lead, 18:17. The joker of Zenit at the moment was Artyom Klimenko, who replaced Vince Hunter – 215-cm guy scored 2 points, made 2 assists and a blocked Kirill Yelatontsev’s shot. By the end of the quarter, the St. Petersburgers were ahead by 3 points, after which Barford still managed to score from five meters with a foul, but, alas, he missed the bonus free throw – 21:22.

At the beginning of the 2nd quarter, Trent Frazier first scored 5 points in a row, then a couple of episodes later set up Ndour for a foul in attack – for the Loko forward it became the third one, so Sekulić had to send one of his most useful players this evening to rest a bit. This freed up Sergei Karasev, who scored 7 points in two attacks (his second 3-pointer was made with a foul) – that’s how the score became 26:34 in favor of the guests.

The hosts continued to carry out spectacular attacks from time to time (check White’s dunk and Akoon-Purcell’s fast break), but the margin stood quite firmly at around 6-10 points. 26 seconds before the big break, White reduced the gap to “–4” with a long-range throw to the delight of 3,200 spectators, but in the time remaining before the siren, Thomas Heurtel also managed to score – 40:46 by the end of the period.

After the resumption of the game, thanks to Ndour’s activity and White’s elegant pass to Martyuk, Loko nibbled off a little more of the gap – in the first half of the 3rd quarter, the difference in the score fluctuated in the range of 3-5 points. Spectacular episodes in these minutes were performed by Ndour (who played, perhaps, his best match so far for the Krasnodar club) and Barford. But then Frazier from behind the 3-point line and Georgy Zhbanov in a counterattack in a few seconds brought the margin to double digits again. Loko began to actively engage in attack, and by the end of the 3rd quarter they managed to get a little closer to Zenit – 60:67.

From the first seconds of the 4th quarter, Sekulić’s team also added on defense. The game began to heat up, an exponential amounts of fouls were thrown, and at some point the game was interrupted for a couple of minutes while the referees watched a replay of the mess, as a result of which Martyuk and Zhbanov received technicals. Thanks to a series of accurate three-pointers from Barford, Akoon-Purcell and Vladislav Yemchenko, Loko reduced the gap to just one point, and in the 35th minute took the lead – bravo Barford, 75:74!

Ndour continued to shine on both sides of the court – but received his 5th foul two minutes before the end with the score 79:79. Frazier and Akoon-Purcell exchanged misses and then Kuric scored a three-pointer – 38 seconds for Loko to save the game.

The remaining time became a full-fledged rehearsal for the playoffs – in terms of an endless exchange of violations. Alas, Lokomotiv failed to get closer to the opponent during this time.

As a result of this defeat, Loko was guaranteed to take fourth place in the regular season. The Krasnodar team will play the final match of this stage on April 13 at their home arena. Enisey will come to visit – one of the two (along with PARMA) likely opponents in the quarterfinals.

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