On Thursday afternoon, Unics Kazan hosted defending champions Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Round 18 of the EuroLeague.
The Russian side was coming after two defeats, against Barcelona last week in the EuroLeague and against Zenit in the VTB League. The loss against Barca was especially painful, as Unics played amazing basketball for 35 minutes in the Palau Blaugrana, but in the last 5 minutes, they blew the 15 point lead they built and eventually lost the game in overtime.
Yesterday however Unics showed that they got over that defeat and started the game against Efes on fire with a 17-0 opening run. Efes managed to cut the deficit to 1 point in the second quarter and stayed close the whole game, but they never took the lead as Unics didn’t lose concentration this time and won with the final score of 75-67. John Brown was the leading scorer with 20 points, ex-CSKA player Andrey Vorontsevich scored 12 points, while the team’s star player Mario Hezonja finished with 9 points and 9 rebounds. In the absence of Vasilje Micic and Krunoslav Simon, Shane Larkin had to do it all in the backcourt for Efes and besides scoring 17 points, he impressed again with 9 rebounds ( the second time this EuroLeague season for the American point guard ).
Unlike Lyon or Monaco, teams that also started the season surprisingly good, but now are out of the playoffs, Kazan is a real threat for the big clubs this season and can fight for a Final Four spot. Coach Velimir Perasovic has the experience, as he coached three times previously in Final Fours while coaching Baskonia and Unics has a roster with many high-quality players. As for Efes, they are still alternating the good and bad games and this inconsistency could cause them even a playoff spot in the end.
Unics will start the new year with three difficult away games, against Real Madrid, Monaco and Olimpia Milan and their first home game in 2022 will be the much-awaited rematch against Barcelona on 20th January. Efes, on the other hand, will have its next EuroLeague game at home against Bayern and the Turkish side really needs to start playing its best basketball to avoid getting in trouble.