Bittersweet Victory by Andy Shenk
March 27, 2012, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Sports | Tags: , , , ,

Lokomotiv Kuban fought gamely with Khimki in front of a passionate Tuesday night crowd at the Basket-Hall. Lokomotiv entered the EuroCup quarterfinal needing to overcome a 9-point deficit, suffered in the first leg of the quarterfinal. Having already played away at Khimki, Lokomotiv enjoyed the support of their dedicated fanatics, 4,000 strong, in the second leg.

Despite the unceasing support of the crowd, Lokomotiv struggled to get out of the gate quickly and trailed by two at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter proved even more disheartening. Khimki steadily extended their lead and headed into halftime up 13, which meant that Lokomotiv would need to make up 22 points in the second half, if they wanted to advance to the EuroCup Final Four.

The second half began briskly, with Lokomotiv closing to within 3 (or 12, depending on how you look at it) by the end of the third quarter. They then quickly took the lead in the fourth quarter, going up by as much as 7 in the closing minute. Khimki, however, managed to keep Loko at bay and escape from Krasnodar with only a 4-point loss.

In the short term, the loss (technically speaking, victory) is disheartening. Lokomotiv lost a golden opportunity to showcase itself in the EuroCup Final Four and will now have to refocus on its play in the less glamorous VTB League (an Eastern European basketball league) and Russian PBL (Professional Basketball League). On the other hand, it’s impossible to discount the excitement of the 4,000 fans who showed up on a weeknight in southern Russia to watch a basketball game. Only two other teams in the EuroCup quarterfinals, Valencia Basket and Lietuvos Rytas, drew more fans for the home leg. More impressively, Lokomotiv enjoys the third-highest average attendance among Russian basketball teams. Only Unics Kazan and CSKA Moscow, who both competed in the top-tier Euroleague this season, boast a higher average attendance. The Lokomotiv fanbase is invested, too, judging by the more than 100 comments already posted on their team website only six hours after the game ended.

Should Lokomotiv qualify for the Euroleague in coming years, and compete against such European powers as Real Madrid, Panathinaikos, Zalgiris, and Montepaschi Siena, tickets to the 7500-person capacity Basket-Hall may be difficult to come by. More updates on the 2011-2012 season will certainly follow on this blog.

Next up tonight…Western Conference rivals Phoenix and San Antonio square off in the desert. The Spurs look to continue their push for the #1 seed in the Western Conference, while the Suns, 11-4 since the All-Star Break, try to improve their chances at a playoff spot in the hotly-contested West. Steve Nash versus his archnemesis, the Spurs, at the US Airways Center? Boy, I wish I could see the Phoenix crowd tonight.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns. NBA Regular Season.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012. 10:00 PM ET. US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona.


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