Kuzminskas, Kalnietis fuel Lokomotiv into playoffs
Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar advanced to the 7DAYS EuroCup Quarterfinals with an inspired 100-86 victory over Dolomiti Energia Trento on Wednesday at Basket Hall. Both teams finish Top 16 Group F with 3-3 records, however, while Lokomotiv earned a tiebreak edge over Trento to clinch a spot in the next stage, Trento must wait for the outcome of the Partizan NIS Belgrade versus Boulogne Metropolitans 92 game to learn its fate. If Partizan wins in overtime or in regulation by 3 points or less, Trento will advance from second place behind Lokomotiv. Lokomotiv will win the group and have home-court advantage in the playoffs if Partizan wins by any score between 1 and 34 points. Otherwise, Lokomotiv will be second. Mindaugas Kuzminskas starred with a career-high 26 points plus 9 rebounds and Mantas Kalnietis came up big with 21 points, 10 assists and 3 steals for the winners. Nigel Williams-Goss added 13 points and 5 assists, Drew Gordon tallied 12 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists and Will Cummings scored 11 for Lokomotiv. JaCorey Williams led Trento with 27 points on 13-of-17 shooting plus 10 rebounds, Victor Sanders added 22 points by making 5 of 6 three-point shots, Gary Browne paired 12 points with 10 assists and Luke Maye scored 10 points in defeat.
Trento scored the first two baskets of the game through Browne and Williams before Kevin Hervey got Lokomotiv on the scoreboard with a basket-plus-foul. Back-to-back threes by Kalnietis and Williams-Goss gave the hosts their first lead, 9-7. Trento regained control with 8 straight points – of which Williams scored 5. Lokomotiv punched back as Kuzminskas scored 6 points in an 8-0 run that made it 22-18. After free throws by Reggie Lynch and Cummings, the Lokomotiv lead was 27-20 after 10 minutes. Browne and Maye teamed up to pull the visitors within 29-26 only to see Lynch and Kuzminskas respond quickly. Kuzminskas's slam made it 37-30 midway through the second quarter. Kuzminskas dunked twice and added a three in a 9-0 run to give Lokomotiv a 16-point advantage. Despite baskets by Maye and Browne, Trento could not keep up and a three-point play by Gordon extended the margin to 52-33. A three by Maye helped Trento trim the deficit to 54-38 at the break.
Hervey restored a 19-point lead with a three to open the second half, but Trento found its footing with Williams dunking twice in a 0-9 charge to get within 61-51. Kalnietis and Jeremy Morgan traded shots as the margin remained at or near the critical 12-point mark. Williams drew Trento within 70-61, but soon after was whistled for his fourth foul with 1:49 remaining in the third quarter. Sanders's fourth three of the night got the margin to 8 before Gordon's put-back made it 76-66 through three quarters. Kuzminskas stepped up with half the points in a 10-0 Lokomotiv run that extended the margin to 88-69. Sanders and Williams revived the visitors with the former's floater making it 90-78 with 5 minutes remaining. After Williams-Goss put Lokomotiv up by 14, Williams made it 94-82 with less than 2 minutes to play. A Williams-Goss gave the hosts a 15-point lead with 30 seconds to go. After a quick score by Williams, Hervey split free throws with 14 seconds remaining, but Browne was unable to score on Trento's final possession and the celebrations began at Basket hall.
Though there were many critical charges in the game, none was more important than a Mindaugas Kuzminskas-led run early in the fourth quarter; he scored half of the home team's points in a 10-0 spurt for an 88-69 lead, just after Trento had battled to get within 9.
Kuzminskas shined with a career-best 26 points, which was 5 more than his previous mark. He was a threat all game with 6 points in an 8-0 first-quarter run and 11 more in the second quarter as Lokomotiv pulled away. Kuzminskas also set a career-high with 9 rebounds, while his PIR of 33 was 1 off the 34 he posted for Siauliai against Aris Thessaloniki as a 20-year-old in December 2009.
A Trento record
JaCorey Williams tied the Trento record for two-pointers made with 13. He is the third player to do so after Dustin Hogue (January 2018) and Alessandro Gentile (December 2019). Victor Sanders's 5 three-pointers were 1 off the Trento mark, which is shared by Beto Gomes (November 2018) and Jeremy Morgan (November 2020).
Lokomotiv outshot Trento from all ranges, making 69.2% of its two-pointers, 43.5% of its threes and 80% from the foul line. Those are particularly impressive considering the quality of Trento's defense, which stopped its last two opponents below 60 points. Trento shot 59.0% on twos, 38.5% on threes and 71.4% on free throws.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021