Zenit has had impressive success on the road this season. On the way to winning first place in both regular season Group E and Last 32 Group L, Zenit went 6-2 on the road. Zenit also picked up a road win in the VTB League clash at Nizhny in mid-December, when it won 84-88 behind 23 points and 7 assists from Ryan Toolson. Nizhny and Zenit (or its predecessor Triumph Lyubertsy) have played each other 17 times in official games since 2011 in the VTB League, Russian League and Russian Cup, with Zenit holding a 10-7 edge. Zenit also won five of the last six times it visited Nizhny, but that one Nizhny home win, came last season in the VTB League playoff quarterfinals. The team from Novgorod clinched that series with a road win in St. Petersburg in a deciding fifth game.
Not as close as it seems
This may be a clash of Russian clubs, but these two teams are by no means neighbors and are up for a nice trip. If they would choose to drive, it would be a 1,130-kilometer journey between Nizhny Novgorod and St. Petersburg. As the crow flies, the distance between the two cities is 900 kilometers. So, despite this being a series between two teams from the same country, there are three other eighthfinals series in which teams will travel almost half the distance than what Zenit and Nizhny will traverse for these games.
As even as it gets
Thus far, through 16 games in the competition, Zenit is ranked sixth in scoring with a total of 1,299 points, and Nizhny is only two rungs lower with 1291 total points scored. Statistically, the teams were especially close during the Last 32. In three road games, they each averaged 82.7 points. Zenit had +9 point difference in the Last 32, and Nizhny +8, with a slight difference in that Nizhny scored 81.7 points while allowing 80.3, and Zenit scored 79.8 while allowing opponents to score 78.3 points. Nizhny's offense produced 109 assists and its defense made 31 steals, and Zenit's was right behind with 108 assists and 29 steals in the Last 32. Interestingly, the teams were tied by each making 121 two-point shots in six games.
Not all the statistical parameters match for these two teams, and that’s what each of them will try to exploit. On its home floor in the Eurocup this season, Nizhny ranks among the top three-point shooting teams with 41.3% accuracy, and will be looking to find its regular season form in that department, when it knocked down 44.5% of its attempts behind the arc at home. On the other hand, Zenit’s defense held opponents to 27.1% on three-pointers attempted, and allowed only 5.8 threes per game, both of which were the lowest marks in the Last 32. Zenit gets to the free throw line 7 more times per game than Nizhny, and made 16.5 foul shots compared to Nizhny’s 11.8, but Nizhny takes better care of the ball, committing an average of 13.3 turnovers per game, compared to 15.7 by Zenit.
In store for some three-point fireworks
In shooting guard Ryan Toolson and forward Janis Timma, Zenit has one of the most dangerous three-point shooting duos in the competition. Toolson is the Eurocup leader among active eighthfinalists with an average of 3.2 triples per game, and is the second-most accurate with 54.5% shooting behind the arc. He had three games in which he hit at least 5 threes this season, and knocked down at least 3 threes in five of the six Last 32 games. Timma averages exactly 2 three-pointers per game and has 10 games in which he hit multiple three-point shots. On the other hand, Nizhny is the only team in the competition with five players who each made 20 or more three-pointers this season. It all start with Dimitriy Khvostov who buried 34 long-range shots on 51.5% accuracy, while Evgeny Baburin (29), Victor Rudd (26), Ivan Strebkov (23) and Semen Antonov (22) have all displayed the capability to light it up from downtown as well.