Lokomotiv prevails in offensive showdown
Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar claimed a valuable 100-106 road win over Morabanc Andorra on Wednesday night to improve to 7-2 and get closer to its target of securing second place in Group C. The hosts, who dropped to 3-4, will have to wait to confirm their qualification to the Top 16. Lokomotiv surpassed the 100-point barrier for the third time this season and even though it struggled against Andorra’s shooting accuracy in the early going and trailed 27-19 after 7 minutes, once it managed to get in charge in the second quarter, never lost the lead. Kevin Harvey had personal bests in points and rebounds, as he posted 23 and 15 for a PIR of 27, also his highest in the competition. Jordan Crawford followed him with 22 points and Will Cummings and Mindaugas Kuzminskas provided 20 and 17 points, respectively. Mantas Kalnietis reached again double-figures in assists by dishing 12 for the winners. Haukur Palsson paced Andorra with career-high 21 points, including 5 three-pointers. Clevin Hannah scored 18, Oriol Pauli contributed 13 and Babatunde Olumuyiwa posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort.
Both teams shined on offense in the early going, with Olumuyiwa and Reggie Lynch challenging each other in the paint. A three-point play by the latter put the visitors in front and back-to-back triples by Stanislav Ilnitskiy and Harvey made it 8-13 soon after. The hosts reacted quickly with an astonishing accuracy from deep, as Paulson hit 3 times from behind the arc and Hannah and Pauli added another triple each to give Andorra a 23-17 edge after 6 minutes. The hosts kept getting easy points through fast transitions to extend the lead to 27-19, but a late push capped by a three-pointer from Cummings helped Lokomotiv stay within striking distance at 32-26 after 10 minutes. Playing without a true center for a while, the visitors improved on both ends, as Cummings remained hot and scored 8 points in a 2-12 run that put his team back in charge, 32-39. Hannah came to the rescue and broke the trend with a three and followed with a couple of buckets that helped the hosts recover their rhythm. Crawford took over for Lokomotiv with 6 points in a row, but Andorra had its momentum back and managed to reach halftime trailing 54-56.
Back-to-back three-point plays by Kuzminkas and Cummings gave some fresh air to the visitors right after the break, enlarging the difference to 59-66. The hosts struggled again on offense, but managed to keep Lokomotiv in sight by getting often to the line. A pull-up jumper by Jeremy Senglin and a corner three by Paulson made it a one-point game, 73-74, forcing an urgent timeout by Lokomotiv. It worked fine, as Kalnietis provided a dunk off-the-drive, Crawford banked a difficult shot and Harvey drilled a three in just 1 minute to keep the visitors calm, 75-81. Tomasz Gielo and David Jelinek responded from downtown to make it a one-possession game, 81-84, entering the last quarter. Even though the latter kept pacing the hosts on offense, Lokomotiv retained a short advantage, 85-90, thanks to Cummings’s contributions. Both squads swapped baskets for a while until Harvey showed up to convert three consecutive buckets inside that made it 95-102 with less than 2 minutes left. Andorra didn’t surrender, though, and come withing 98-104 entering the last minute, but consecutive misses from the three-point line by Hannah and Paulson allowed Crawford to seal the win from the line.
Even though he never played center in any EuroCup game this season, forward Kevin Harvey displayed a dominant performance in that position against Andorra. He finished as the game’s top scorer with 23 points, to which he added 13 rebounds. He made up for the absence of starting center Alan Williams, who is out for the season with a knee injury and also solved all the issues when Reggie Lynch fouled out with 7 minutes to play in the last quarter.
Lokomotiv dominated the boards by outrebounding Andorra 41-28 in a game in which both sides missed key inside players (Tyson Perez and Moussa Diagne for the hosts and Alan Williams for the guests). Lokomotiv used that rebounding advantage to get 25 second-chance points, which were complemented by 46 points coming from the duo of Cummings and Crawford.
The Top 16 must wait
The hosts needed a win and a Lietkabelis Panevezys loss in Belgium to secure a ticket to the next stage, but even though Telenet Giants Antwerp beat the Lithuanian team, Andorra will have to wait and win one of its remaining games before celebrating.
In Round 10 next week, Morabanc Andorra will fly to Lithuania to visit Lietkabelis Panevezys aiming to seal its qualification to the Top 16 on Wednesday, December 16. Lokomotiv Kuban will return to Krasnodar to host AS Monaco in a crucial game to decide second place in Group A the same day.
Wednesday, December 9, 2020