Two undefeated Moscow rivals square off in another EuroLeague edition of the Leningradka derby, as CSKA hosts Khimki in their first head-to-head clash this season. CSKA has started its EuroLeague title defense with a pair of double-digit victories, and will be intent on keeping up that trend. Khimki has opened EuroLeague action with two wins only for the second time ever, but now goes on the road for the first time this season.
The two teams have developed the biggest rivalry in Russian basketball, having played deciding playoff games in the VTB League for years, and have transferred the rivalry to the EuroLeague in recent seasons, too. However, CSKA has won eight of the last nine EuroLeague clashes against Khimki, and all five on its home floor. Whenever CSKA hosted Khimki in non-playoff EuroLeague games in the past, it won each by a double-digit margin.
Different offensive approaches
Despite many roster changes over the summer, CSKA has kept true to its balanced offense. Last year's EuroLeague top scorer Mike James and the Final Four MVP Will Clyburn have been in main roles, posting 13.5 points apiece. Darrun Hilliard is the teams' top scorer (14.0 ppg.), but no player has been playing heavy minutes so far. On the other hand, just nine Khimki players have score a basket this season, with six of them accounting for 157 of team's 168 points through two games. Two players playing more than 31 minutes lead the way, with Alexey Shved as the EuroLeague scoring leader (21.5 ppg), and versatile forward Jains Timma shining with 17.5 points per contest.
The last two Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winners, Mike James and Alexey Shved, go head to head in this one. Shved might be the bigger downtown threat, with unlimited range, while James is more dangerous taking it to the hoop. Despite the fact that both players can score in bunches and seemingly at will, how well they will serve their teammates could be a determining factors on Thursday. Shved enters the game leading Khimki with 7.0 assists per game, while James dishes 5.0 per contest.
Keys to victory: CSKA
Being the early part of the season, where new players on a team are still getting accustomed, CSKA excellent downtown shooting has worked well in its favor. CSKA has made (29) and attempted (65) more triples than any other team in the competition, and its third-highest 44.6% accuracy has allowed the defending champs to win comfortably in the first two rounds. When an offensively talented team such as CSKA is shooting this well, it is really hard to beat.
Keys to victory: Khimki
Khimki loves to play up-tempo basketball, and certainly has the offensive talent and athleticism to rival any opponent. However, to beat CSKA away from home, Khimki will need to cut down on its turnovers (12.0 per game), choose better long-range shots (32.2% for three-pointers), and – most importantly – make sure it controls its defensive glass. Only one team has allowed more offensive rebounds (15.0 per game) than Khimki so far this season.
Kostas Koufos is still out with foot injury.
Chris Kramer, Egor Vialtsev, Petr Gubanov, Timofey Mozgov and Stefan Jovic are still sidelined with injuries.