Khimki Moscow Region ended its three-game losing streak with a win over Zalgiris Kaunas on Thursday night, but in a fashion unlike any other this season. Khimki allowed a season-low 64 points and delivered 9 blocks, which tied for the season-best in the EuroLeague. Those 9 blocks came from four different players - Malcolm Thomas had 3, while Jordan Mickey, Sergey Monia and Charles Jenkins each had 2 blocked shots, which did wonders for Khimki in this game.
"I think, at the end, the length of Khimki really bothered us," Zalgiris coach Sarunas Jasikevicius admitted after the game. "If you look at our two-point percentage, it is really really poor. I believe we made really bad decisions in the fourth quarter, both offensively and defensively, and that cost us the win."
Indeed, Khimki kept Zalgiris to 14-of-38 shooting on two-pointers, which is a season-low 36.8% for Zalgiris. Moreover, those blocks did a great job of not only intimidating Zalgiris players to go to the rim, but changing the way the team played.
Zalgiris finished the game attempting 38 two-point shots and 21 three-pointers. But in the final quarter, which it entered with a 9-point lead, Zalgiris scored just 8 points as it tried 7 two-pointers and 6 triples. Khimki's big men Thomas and Mickey, together with a collapsing defense, forced the visitors to extend possessions, take outside shots, and ultimately into committing 5 of their 12 turnovers in the final 10 minutes.
"We played great defense. This was the key to the victory," new Khimki coach Rimas Kurtinaitis said. "We got some rebounds, which we had some problems with at the beginning of the game. When you play good defense and rebound, you always have success."
Khimki needed it because apart from Thomas and Mickey, its offense wasn't managing much, but the team got a long-awaited spark from Tony Crocker. The first-year sharpshooter has shot just 9 for 59 since Round 8, but made 4 of 5 triples in this game, including a pair during Khimki's fourth-quarter charge that secured a win that kept the team in the playoff hunt.