Rimas Kurtinaitis wasn't the happiest coach in the world last Wednesday when his Khimki Moscow Region team lost to Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv 80-77. And it was not only because it gave up a 11-point halftime lead. Kurtinaitis had other reasons to feel upset.
One was the injury to Sergey Karasev, who played less than 13 minutes before joining Khimki's full infirmary, which already included Anthony Gill, Jeremy Evans, Dairis Bertans, Timofey Mozgov and Peter Gubanov. A sixth player sidelined didn't help the lost opportunity in Tel Aviv feel any better.
Another fact that ruffled Kurtinaitis was how his team lost to Maccabi. As he stated in that post-game press conference: "Usually, I always talk at practices, in the games, within the team that we don't have good balance with two- and three-point shots because we take more three-point shots than two-point shots. The numbers that I like is one three-point shot to two two-point shots. This is the balance for the win."
Against Maccabi, Khimki attempted 30 two-pointers and 36 three-pointers - not the balance he wanted.
But 48 hours later, despite being limited to just eight players against Crvena Zvezda, Kurtinaitis could celebrate twice.
First, Khimki won despite all the absences; and second, his team played the way he wanted.
"Today's game maybe was not nice, basketball-wise, but it was about who was tough and who played with heart," he said after Friday's win. "Today we were a little bit better, and I am happy for the victory."
In addition to toughness and heart, Kurtinaitis could feel satisfied because Khimki showed much better balance regarding shot distribution. The team shot 37 times from two-point range versus 27 attempts from behind the arc. Even though the team's shooting accuracy was not extraordinary, the balance allowed Khimki to take the lead midway through the first quarter and never look back.
Jonas Jerebko and Devin Booker lived up to their coach's expectations in that sense, combining on 11-for-20 two-point shooting while drawing 9 fouls of the team's 22, which was 4 more than against Maccabi. Their job inside helped the team make better use of its outside shots, hitting the same 10 three-pointers in 9 fewer attempts against Zvezda than against Maccabi.
All six Khimki players who attempted a three-pointer made one, with Alexey Shved downing 4 of is own and coming up big every time Crvena Zvezda tried to come back. His timely triples, layups and assists ended up deciding the outcome, and when the visitors got within 4 points, he took advantage of the free throw line to seal the win.