Kaimakoglou leads UNICS to semis
In a do-or-die battle to stay alive in the competition, UNICS Kazan advanced to the 7DAYS EuroCup semifinals by downing Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar 69-65 at Basket-Hall Kazan in Game 3 of their best-of-three series on Wednesday. UNICS won the series 2-1 and will face Valencia Basket in the semifinals. Kostas Kaimakoglou led the winners with 14 points off the bench. Errick McCollum added 11 for UNICS. Dmitry Kulagin paced Lokomotiv with 16 points and JaJuan Johnson added 15 and 12 rebounds for the visitors. Lokomotiv led 10-16 after 10 minutes, but an 11-0 run gave UNICS control of the game. The hosts reached halftime with a 32-27. A 0-11 run got Lokomotiv within 47-46 at the end of the third quarter. A layup by Dorell Wright gave the visitors their last lead, 59-60. Jamar Smith and Kaimakoglou hit back-to-back three-pointers and UNICS stayed cold-blooded in the final seconds to snatch the go-ahead win.
Evgeny Kolesnikov got UNICS going with a mid-range jumper and a three-pointer as the hosts' aggressive defense held Lokomotiv scoreless for more than 4 minutes. Lokomotiv tried a smaller lineup with Jamel McLean at center and the visitors started to get to the foul line, but a jumper by Maurice Ndour gave UNICS a 7-3 lead. Dmitry Khvostov followed a triple with a floater. A turnaround jumper by Johnson gave Lokomotiv its first lead, 9-10. Vitaly Fridzon and McLean boosted the margin to 10-16 after 10 minutes. McCollum hit a fallaway jumper early in the second quarter, igniting an 11-0 run in which Kaimakoglou had 9 points - a triple, a couple of layups and a jump hook - for a 21-16 UNICS lead. Wright buried a three-pointer and fed Mateusz Ponitka for a reverse layup that tied it at 23-23. Lokomotiv found its regular go-to guy in Kulagin, who followed a put-back slam with a jumper, which caused UNICS to stop the game at 24-27. Artem Klimenko, Smith and Kaimakoglou fueled an 8-0 run that restored a 32-27 UNICS lead. Raymar Morgan scored down low and Smith added a triple to boost the hosts' margin to 37-29 at halftime. UNICS's frontcourt fond itself in severe foul trouble - Ndour 4 fouls, Melvin Ejim and Morgan 3 each - and Lokomotiv took full advantage of it. Johnson and Kulagin combined for all the points in an 0-11 run that gave the visitors a 37-40 edge. Morgan rescued UNICS with a layup, but Kulagin bettered it with a triple and a tip-in by Johnson made it 40-45. Anton Ponkrashov downed a corner three-pointer and got help from McCollum to restore a 47-46 UNICS edge after 30 minutes. Ponkrashov downed a jumper early in the fourth quarter and an alley-oop dunk by Klimenko forced the Lokomotiv to call timeout at 51-46. McLean and Khvostov scored in penetration, but a jumper by Morgan gave UNICS a 53-50 edge. McLean and Wright tried to change things for Lokomotiv, but Ponkrashov and McCollum kept UNICS ahead, 57-54, with over 3 minutes left. Ponitka sank a floater, Johnson added an alley-oop slam and a layup by Wright gave Lokomotiv a 59-60 lead in the next-to-last minute. Smith struck from downtown and a wild turnaround jumper by Johnson tied it at 62-62 with 52.7 seconds left. After Kaimakoglou answered from downtown, Kulagin and Henry traded free throws and Khvostov committed a critical turnover. McCollum and Henry sealed the outcome from the foul line.
Kostas Kaimakoglou averaged 3.1 points before this game, but made the difference in the most critical moment. He finished Game 3 with 14 points on 4-of-4 two-point shooting and 2-of-3 on three-pointers. He had 11 points in the second quarter to bring UNICS back to life and hit the go-ahead three-pointer in the final minute.
The game went down to the final seconds; JaJuan Johnson tied the game with a jumper at 62-62, but Kostas Kaimakoglou buried a three-pointer from the top of the key and Dmitry Khvostov made a critical turnover that allowed Errick McCollum to go to the foul line. McCollum split free throws, but that four-point lead was enough for UNICS to stay ahead for good.
In a very balanced game, shooting percentages made the difference. Lokomotiv hit just 38.1% shots inside the arc (16 of 42) and 23.5% from downtown (4 of- 7). UNICS only did a bit better, but enough to win the game: 15 of 37 (40.5%) inside the arc and 7 of 17 (41.2%) from three-point range
Did you notice?
UNICS advanced to the EuroCup Semifinals for the fifth time in club history. It previously made it in 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2015. So far, UNICS is 2-2 in the semifinals. It beat Cedevita Zagreb in 2011 and Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade in 2014 and lost to Real Madrid in 2007 and Herbalife Gran Canaria in 2015.
UNICS will visit Valencia Basket in Game 1 of the semifinals on Tuesday, March 19. Lokomotiv has been eliminated from the competition.
Wednesday, March 13, 2019