Arguably the most unpredictable series in this year's EuroCup playoffs is the All-Russian showdown between UNICS Kazan and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. Both teams know each other very well, are former EuroCup champions, have experienced players, compete in the VTB League and even play in identical buildings. Game 1, however, was more one-sided that most people thought - UNICS used an outstanding second half to defeat Lokomotiv 86-66 behind 32 points from Errick McCollum and 18, 6 rebounds and 9 assists from Pierria Henry, who controlled the game from both guard spots, allowing their team to make the most out of their home court advantage.
Above all, UNICS was deadly from the foul line, tying an all-time EuroCup record with 22-of-22 free throws. As many as 15 of those were hit by McCollum, who beat an all-time EuroCup Playoffs record. UNICS pulled down 36 rebounds and collected 10 steals, making sure it used its deep roster to keep a high rhythm all the way - as many as 11 players, everyone who came on the court, played 11 minutes or more.
Underestimating Lokomotiv after a bad loss, however, would be dangerous, to say the least.
In its last four EuroCup appearances, Lokomotiv has amassed a 62-15 record (80.5%), reaching the semifinals in 2015 and 2017, and the finals in 2018. In its last Turkish Airlines EuroLeague appearance in the 2015-16 season, Lokomotiv went all the way to the Final Four. Five of its players led Lokomotiv to a 20-2 record last season, reaching the finals undefeated before being swept by Darussafaka, and will be more motivated than anyone around to get another shot to the EuroCup title.
In Game 1, Lokomotiv was limited to just 29.4% three-point shooting, its worst percentage in the EuroCup since November, and had more turnovers (18) than assists (14) for just the fourth time this season. Lokomotiv relies on its defensive intensity in front of its fans, where it only allows 71 points on average, forcing opponents to shoot the ball with low percentages (49.8% 2FG, 33.1% 3FG). Expect Loko to be fully focused to avoid relegation in a battle between two of the best teams in the competition.