In an incredible home match, «Astana» Presidential Basketball Club was one step away from defeating VTB United League leaders «Khimki», Moscow Region.
“Khimki” are the leaders of the VTB United League, with only one defeat in the regular season. The Moscow Region team was a favorite in the game, but not all the key players arrived in Kazakhstan; there was no Alexei Shved and Yanis Timm. But even without them, the team is full of first-class players — Devin Booker, Jonas Zherebko, Stefan Jovic, Dairies Bertans, Egor Vyaltsev, Vyacheslav Zaitsev and Sergey Monya. Also, for the first time this year as a part of the VTB League, Chris Kramer entered the court and Thomas Robinson made his debut this season. This match was important for the Kazakhstan team, but our rivals were the favorites. From the start, James Florence, Vadim Shcherbak, Dushan Ristic, Alexander Zhigulin and Malcolm Hill joined the game as part of Astana.
Players of “Astana” won the toss, but could not get points in the first attack, while our opponents in their first attack scored three points. James Florence opened a score for the hosts in this game, but “Khimki” were extremely accurate from behind the arc and immediately pulled away, leaving the gap of 7 points after 2 minutes of the game. Our team quickly neutralized the backlog, and James Florence's accurate three-pointer brought our team forward. Until the end of the quarter there was an equal game, “Khimki” stayed ahead, but could not break away from us. At the end of the first period, after an accurate three-pointer by Jeremy Hill, “Astana” again came forward, but the whole quarter ended in an equal score. The first half of the second quarter took place in an equal fight and the score was even more than once. After the equator, “Khimki” began to get away from their rivals. Their advantage gradually increased. Our players had difficulties with gaining points, and “Khimki” continued to actively «shoot” from the distance. Before the end of the first half, the gap between our rivals reached a 10-point advantage, and in fact, the first half ended with a score of 37:47.
Only the last five minutes of the first half passed under the initiative, the rest of the time on the site there was an equal fight. 10- point gap was not critical and the team of Emil Rajkovic could catch up, but «Khimki» were clearly against it. At first, the difference between the teams was 10 points on average, but by the middle of the quarter, the gap in favor of our guests was already 15 points. The Kazakhstanis tried to turn the tide of the game, but they didn’t succeed, and our lag a minute before the end of the third quarter came close to 20 points. As a result, before the fourth quarter, “Astana” lost quite a lot — 17 points. Such a lag can be played back in 10 minutes, but it is very difficult to do. The Kazakhstan team tried to turn the match around, but «Khimki» clung tightly to its advantage. Five minutes before the end of the match, the Moscow Region team won 14 points. In the middle of the quarter, the teams issued an extravaganza of three-point shots, and then Alexander Zhigulin with a dunk reduced the gap to 11 points, and also gave a start to the Kazakhstan team spurt. He was supported in this by Malcolm Hill, who in the next Kazakhstan attack was three times accurate in free throws, reducing the gap to 8. “Astana” played very well in defense and “Khimki” could not score points. And the attacks of the Kazakhstanis were successful, first Alexander Zhigulin distinguished himself again, and then Malcolm Hill took control of the game in the attack, who reduced the backlog of “Astana” to a minimum. The coaching staff of “Khimki” had to take a timeout, but this did not bring them a result, and 45 seconds before the end, the very same Malcolm Hill compares the score. In the next attack of “Khimki”, the ball left the court in a controversial situation and the judges went to watch a video replay. There were 12 seconds remaining until the end of the game. Much depended on the decision of the judges. If they gave the ball to our team, then “Astana” would have time for one attack, and if our players hadn’t realized it, it would be overtime. On the other hand, if the judge had given the ball to Khimki, then they would have had another 3 seconds to attack. After quite a lot of watching and discussion, the decision was made not in our favor and became “fatal”. “Khimki” in three seconds were able to make a throw and were accurate. And now, our team had only 8 seconds to level the score and put the game into overtime and it could be done only by a three-pointer. Unfortunately, the throw from our team did not work and the ball did not reach the goal. “Khimki” today pulled out a victory 88:91 (24:24, 13:23
Head coach of “Astana” — Emil Rajkovic:
- “Astana” — Malcolm Hill became the most productive player in both teams, earning 24 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. Jeffrey Crockett scored 17 points today and made 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Jeremiah Hill recorded a double-double — 12 points + 10 assists, and also made 4 rebounds and 4 steals. The most effective of the Kazakhstanis was Dmitry Gavrilov, who scored only 4 points, but made 8 rebounds. James Florence scored 13 points and 4 rebounds, and Alexander Zhigulin, although he scored only 6 points, but together with Malcolm Hill, they became the initiators of the Kazakhstan comeback.
- «Khimki» — Devin Booker brought the most benefit to his team (19 points + 7 rebounds), Dairies Bertans scored all his 18 points from behind the arc today, and Stefan Jovic (13 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists) scored a three-pointer victory shot.
- I would like to congratulate my team, which fought to the end. «Khimki» is the Euroleague team that lost only one game in the VTB League season. However, our players leveled the score at the end of the game despite losing 17 points. Everything was decided at the last moment when we determined whose possession would be the last. But, unfortunately, «Khimki» gained possession and Jovic realized a very important three-point shot. I am proud of my players and many thanks to our fans for their support.
The head coach of «Khimki» — Rimas Kurtinaites:
- We played poorly, but it’s good that we have won. Even winning 15 points, today we did not play as a Euroleague team. We made a result, this is not a problem for us, but you still need to save it. There were errors, flaws in the defense. Today we lost 10 rebounds. You can attribute everything to fatigue, but I will not do this. We are professionals, we must be able to recover and then play at full strength. I am disappointed today. The only thing is that they won.
everyone understood that this week would be very difficult for Kazakhstanis, on Monday CSKA, Friday Khimki, and unfortunately, there was no sensation: «Astana» went down to 11th line. But our team still has a lot of chances to return to the playoff zone, because even from 6th place “Astana” is only one victory away, so you just have to cling to any opportunity. “Khimki” only strengthened on the first line of the standings.
the capital’s team will have time to respite in the VTB United League until spring, namely, until March 1
, when Emil Rajkovic’s players will play away game with Krasnoyarsk «Yenisei». “Astana” will play a home game on March 8
in a confrontation with the Estonian “Kalev”. And before that, more of our guys have to defend the colors of Kazakhstan in the home matches of the Qualification for the Asian Cup in 2021.
Detailed information about the tournament, standings, schedule and match results are published in the Tournaments