Lifted curse! UNICS wins first victory in Euroleague against favourites in Istanbul
The Kazan players won their first victory in the fifth match of Euroleague against Turkish Fenerbahçe 73-81
Having almost lost the trust of their fans, Pashutin's team won the greatest victory of the day in Euroleague in the fifth match in the huge venue of Turkish Fenerbahçe that was full of never-ceasing fans. Pashutin's team managed to perform a small miracle because of the 'team'. In this match, every UNICS player did more than they used to do. The sports staff of Realnoe Vremya is finding out what kind of contribution every Kazan player made to this common victory.
To play with one of the strongest European teams decently was the minimum goal for UNICS in Istanbul. Chances for success were not considered at all. They managed to make up for the loss of Coty Clarke very late. Even if Orlando Johnson who crossed the ocean had played, it would not guarantee success.
The Kazan players and their Istanbul opponents reached the match in the almost 14,000-people Fenerbahçe Ülker Sports Arena as rivals. The unlucky streak of UNICS was discussed in previous articles many times. The Kazan players accumulated so many problems during the month that we can't help but call October a month of misfortunes. An epidemic of injuries, offensive defeats in matches that could and needed to result in a victory, burnt sauna in the changing room…
Fener from Istanbul is another story. Finalists of the previous Euroleague with a fantastic statistics of performances in the major competition of Europe (either it is the Champions League or Euroleague) reached the match with Kazan with four unconditional wins over Barcelona, Bamberg, Galatasaray and Žalgiris. Fenerbahçe lost only seven times (!) in 155 matches in 15 years. Last time the Turks lost a victory in the final of the previous competition with CSKA, and it was in overtime. What chances did 'beaten' UNICS have to become the author of its eighth defeat? Let's say it directly, illusive.
The host team appeared on the court of Ülker Sports Arena without problems. Guard Bogdan Bogdanovich had an ankle sprain. This is why Fenerbahçe will have to cope without its major guards during the next two matches. However, this loss for Fenerbahçe with its amazing rotation can't be compared with 'holes' of the Kazan players.
But that evening was destined to become life changing. It seems that UNICS has really played as a single team from the very beginning till the last minute for the first time in the season. It was possible to win against one of the best European teams today was due to that. What happened to the 'second' players in the Istanbul match? Probably what we were speaking about in the previous articles? Evgeny Pashutin found an additional motivation for players without any twinkle in their eye.
First of all, it refers to Artsiom Parakhouski. Artsiom played his best game that he has shown this year in that evening. It is unknown what Pashutin did with him. But the Belarus central player grabbed almost all offensive rebounds and confirmed the status of the best defensive block shooter.
Artsiom seemed to be just a monster of rebounds from the first minutes. He cleaned up the glass three times only during the first five minutes after Colom and Langford failed to score three-pointers. And the Istanbul players performed the three shoots out of three attempts. They were on an equal footing: one team did it due its accuracy, while the other – because of its efficiency under the basket. At the same time they exchanged roles by the middle of the quarter: Langford shot his first three-pointer, while the Turks couldn't perform a return attack from a long distance. The teams seemed to have agreed. They played on the common stage of the Istanbul Arena as if they had been rivals.
It seemed the Greens coped with the usual high speeds of Fener well. Even such an elusive move of the ball along the penalty arc of UNICS did not help Jan Veselý and Ekpe Udoh to perform a free throw. At times the Kazan players managed to intercept these assists. This is why +5 after the first quarter was not especially surprising, though just because it is quite a banal thing for the club from Kazan to play strong first quarters.
Parakhouski tyrannised near the Turks' backboard in the second quarter too. He had two rebounds when 4 minutes left before the break. He also made a one-touch throw through the hoop successfully. In general, according to all indicators, Artsiom almost overshadowed not only admitted leaders – Keith Langford whose shooting touch was off and Joaquim Colom but also Fener's leaders. By the half-time break, the Belarus centre performed two luxurious blocked shots, so UNICS went to have a rest at the break with a margin of 4 points. Artsiom's drive made think that our giant had the best match of the season.
UNICS taught us to wait for the half-time break with concern. That concern did not disappear immediately. However, a tension characteristic of games between two favourites lasted till the end of the match. And it surprised. The Turks' races for the outsider that unexpectedly took the lead was unsuccessful over and over when they got a maximum organised defence by Kaimakoglou, Parakhouski and even Panin with Voronov in answer to their attacks.
If Pashutin's team started to play worse in the third quarter in the previous four matches in Euroleague, now it fought on a par. Keith Langford was good after the break too – he played well under the hoop and threw three-pointers when it was necessary. Meanwhile, Colom lost the game at times. He was down in defence for some reason: he failed his function of help guard several times and lost his players. At the same time he did not have extremely many unsuccessful attempts to throw long-distance shots. The Spaniard did it successfully at the sixth attempt. Williams cared about his attempts more. He had accurate middle-range shots, bank shots and his traditional dunks, of course.
Evgeny Voronov who got enough playing time made us either happy with his dribbling or sad with losses. Russian guys Panin and Voronin who were asked to substitute Clarke were useful in defence at times. But they also lost the ball after an unnecessary take (by Voronov) or long shots (Panin).
A crisis that arose in the first half of the final quarter was a nightmare that happens each time. The Kazan team lost the ball near the rivals' basket again. As a result, Pashutin's basketball players simply could not score during 5 minutes. -6 on the scoreboard that substituted the modest +4 gave reasons to stop watching this match because the scenario of matches of UNICS in this Euroleague is the same. Miraculously, Evgeny Pashutin found some wonderful words and his team stopped the barren patch first. Langford's three-pointers and Williams' two-pointers were supported by excellent defence. Kaimakoglou levelled the score with a great shot 71-71. Keith Langford who was irritated by the referee's decision to grant foul in attack ran and was not afraid to throw through Antic's hands. And Joaquim Colom's steal was the apotheosis of the Turks' breakup. It became clear – UNICS needed to win that evening. As if they paid for unfairly lost ends at the beginning of the season, Pashutin's guys won the end in Istanbul 16-2!
Fenerbahçe (Turkey) — UNICS (Russia) — 73-81 (15-20, 24-23, 23-20, 11-18)
Fenerbahçe: Dixon (23), Datome (12+8 rebounds), Nunnally (6), Udoh (3), Antic (2) — starting line-up; Vesely (17), Sloukas (10 + 6 losses), Mahmutoğlu (0).
UNICS: Langford (28 + 10 rebounds), Parakhousky (20+12 rebounds), Colom (9+11 assists), Kaimaikoglou (3), Panin (0) — starting line-up; Williams (10), Banic (6), Voronov (5).