After climbing into the playoff zone last week, eighth-place Khimki needs to protect its home floor to remain there against a reeling ASVEL squad that is only two wins back and can ill-afford another loss if it is to stay in the playoff hunt. While Khimki is all smiles after winning back-to-back games for the first time since November, the French champs have lost eight of their last nine games.
When they last met…
ASVEL survived a big fourth-quarter rally to hold off visiting Khimki Moscow Region 92-88 in Round 16. ASVEL was up by 19 points after the opening possession of the fourth quarter, but Khimki rallied to get within a single point. David Lighty paced the winners with 20 points and Jordan Taylor had 17 points and 8 assists. Janis Timma netted 20 points on 6-for-11 three-point shooting for Khimki.
David Lighty is expected back after missing last week's game and he will be needed to help lead the defensive effort against Khimki's scoring stud Alexey Shved. The list of players who may get the defensive assignment on Shved included any guard with enough speed and length to match up with him, including Antoine Diot, Theo Maledon and even small forward Charles Kahudi, but the veteran Lighty, who is also a team leader, is the natural matchup.
Keys to victory: Khimki
When it comes to Khimki, most think about offense first. However, when its defense is on, good things happen. Khimki is 8-1 this season when it has held opponents below 80 points. Considering that ASVEL averages just 74.1 points per game, which is third-lowest in the league, a strong defensive effort may be the safest way to extend the winning streak and remain in the playoff zone.
Keys to victory: ASVEL
No team shoots as many three-pointers as Khimki (28.9 attempts per game) and ASVEL has allowed opponents to make 41.2% of their threes, which is second-highest in the competition. ASVEL will need its perimeter defenders at their best to deny any open shots for the Khimki shooters. Taking Khimki out of its comfort zone and making it work harder for shots could be the key to victory.