Lokomotiv rolls over UNICS to force Game 3
Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar enjoyed an outstanding night from its guards in defeating UNICS Kazan 86-74 on Thursday night at Basket Hall Krasnodar. The victory tied their best-of-three 7DAYS EuroCup Quarterfinals series at 1-1 and forced a decisive Game 3 in Kazan next week. Nigel Williams-Goss was perfect on 4 shots from downtown in amassing 25 points, 4 assists and 4 steals, while Mantas Kalnietis went for a career-high 23 points plus 10 assists. Mindaugas Kuzminskas scored 15 before fouling out late. Jamar Smith paced UNICS with 20 points, Okaro White added 13 points, John Brown posted 11 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks and John Holland also scored 11 in defeat.
The game started with a turnover at each end before Lokomotiv got the first points via a Kalnietis-to-Drew Gordon alley-oop. White netted UNICS's first basket. A Kalnietis jumper gave the hosts a 9-8 edge midway through the first quarter. That basket keyed what became an 11-0 run that Andrei Martiuk capped with a put-back, which promoted a UNICS timeout. UNICS came right back with successive threes by Holland, White and Smith for a 15-17 edge. After Lokomotiv regained the lead, a triple by Isaiah Canaan made it 19-20 for UNICS after 10 minutes. Williams-Goss opened the second quarter with a three and Drew Gordon converted a three-point play as Lokomotiv surged ahead. Kevin Hervey's slam and a Kalnietis three made it 32-25 midway through the second quarter. Kalnietis added a basket-plus-foul for a double-digit lead. By the time Kuzminskas made free throws, Lokomotiv had reeled off 12 straight points while keeping UNICS scoreless for 4 minutes. Smith ended the drought with a three, but Williams-Goss scored twice to send Lokomotiv into halftime leading 45-31.
Williams-Goss and Kalnietis combined for the first 5 points of the second half before Holland answered with a three for UNICS. Williams-Goss's next three – his third of the night – took the margin into the 20s. A pair of baskets by Smith did little to change the momentum as the Lokomotiv margin remained close to 20 points, though a three by Georgy Zhbanov and a score by Smith trimmed the gap to 67-51 through three quarters. UNICS came out for the fourth quarter with a vengeance and after a put-back by Artem Klimenko and a three by Smith, the difference was only 9. Smith's next triple made it 69-61. Kuzminskas and Williams-Goss sandwiched threes around one from Canaan before Gordon scored inside to make it 77-64 with 4 minutes remaining. Kuzminskas sank 4 free throws to help Lokomotiv remain in control and Kalnietis and Williams-Goss iced the game from the line.
Mantas Kalnietis recorded his third double-double of the season in scoring a EuroCup career-high 23 points to keep Lokomotiv's season alive. The 34-year-old guard made 5 of 9 two-pointers, shot 2 for 4 from downtown and made 7 of 8 free throws. He added 10 assists and 2 steals and drew 5 fouls while committing 3 turnovers for a PIR of 29.
Kalnietis's three-point play with 3:30 remaining was the highlight of a 12-0 Lokomotiv run that saw the lead reach 41-25. Kalnietis started the run with a three and also added an assist. His basket-plus-foul gave the hosts their first double-digit lead and Lokomotiv remained in control the rest of the night.
Kalnietis's 10 assists took him into seventh place on the EuroCup all-time charts with 338. He moved past former UNICS player Marko Popovic. Mike Green sits in sixth place with 350 career assists. Jamar Smith also made history by becoming the first player in competition history with 250 career three-pointers. He made 4 shots from downtown and now has 253 in his career.
The series now moves to Kazan, Russia, where UNCIS will host Game 3 on Wednesday, March 31 in a win-or-go-home situation.
Thursday, March 25, 2021