On Friday in Moscow, on the second day of the VTB United League Super Cup, the reigning league champion entered the game. Zenit in group A met with Lokomotiv-Kuban. Their confrontation was in some way a battle between two systems. On the one hand, Zenit's bet on expensive and proven personnel, on the other, Krasnodar's attempt to manage mainly on its own. The second approach turned out to be successful: Lokomotiv-Kuban won — 74:73. In another match of the day, CSKA met with Mega Belgrade. The army team won with a score of 101:76 and secured the first place in group B, and with it a ticket to the final.
The VTB United League Super Cup, given that its final and the start of the regular season is only a week apart, is an ideal platform for the coaching staffs to test the results of summer work. Team line-ups can still change, in the days remaining before the start of the championship, one of the players can still get in shape, but in general, you can understand what the league leaders are like. And then one of the most intriguing in the tournament schedule was the confrontation between Zenit and Lokomotiv-Kuban.
Both teams are in the top four of the league, but there is still a huge gap between them. Zenit is the reigning champion, perhaps the only Russian basketball club that has not given even a hint that its budget after the removal of domestic teams from European competitions may somehow suffer. Note that last season, Zenit's expenses exceeded 2.4 billion rubles. and, most likely, will not become noticeably smaller in the new championship.
Lokomotiv-Kuban was almost twice as modest in terms of expenses, and this ratio is unlikely to have changed now. And here it is enough to look at how many legionnaires of the team declared for their debut match in Group A of the Super Bowl. Five foreigners played for Zenit (there will be more - not everyone has yet reached the location of the team). Four of them came out in the starting five. Krasnodar, who have long been relying on their own pupils, had only two legionnaires.
Such an imbalance in attracting foreign labor usually affects the result of the match rather quickly. But in this case, Zenit did not receive a decisive advantage. Yes, at first, Caleb Homesley's long-range hits and Richard Solomon's rebounds had some effect. But the Krasnodar players, who actually played with a truncated rotation, endured until a big break, not allowing the opponent to run away into the gap. And then Alexander Shcherbenev, Andrey Martyuk, Dmitry Uzinsky and Jaylen Burford, who joined them, began to give out episodes to which the star line-up of Zenit did not answer too convincingly (the Russian trio of Krasnodar scored 45 points for all of the match).
This led to the fact that the Petersburgers were already in the role of catching up. They couldn't handle it.
Although Zenit had a chance to save the game: 28 seconds before the siren, Homesley brought Zenit ahead. But immediately followed by a shot from an average distance in the performance of Burford, which set the final score - 74:73 in favor of the railroad. Recall that on Thursday in the first match in group A Lokomotiv-Kuban lost to Partizan. The final position in the top three will depend on the confrontation scheduled for Saturday between Zenit and Partizan.
In group B, the situation is simpler. CSKA defeated UNICS on Thursday and was stronger than Mega Belgrade on Friday. Already by the middle of the first ten-minute period, the lead of the army team reached 10 points, and after that CSKA did not face any serious problems. CSKA won - 101:76 - and guaranteed itself the first place in the group, and therefore a place in the final, which will be held on September 25th.