In a rare week when both teams are coming off defeats, CSKA hosts Khimki in the Leningradka Derby in their first EuroLeague meeting since squaring off in last season's playoffs, in which all four games were decided by 6 points or fewer. Injury-plagued Khimki will be without both Alexey Shved and Anthony Gill, making the challenge that much more difficult for the visitors, who have not won at the home of their cross-town rivals in four previous EuroLeague tries. CSKA will be loaded for bear, too, after having dropped out of first place with its second road loss in three games, last week against KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz.
With a combined 37.1 points per game between them, Alexey Shved (25.3) and Anthony Gill (11.8) account for 47% of Khimki 78.7 points per game this season. Jordan Mickey (12.8) is the only other double-digit scorer, followed by Tony Crocker (9.0), but both are EuroLeague rookies and will plenty need help. Making up for Khimki's lack of offense will be that much more difficult in an arena from which so few teams come away happy.
De Colo is due
De Colo had his only scoreless EuroLeague performance ever earlier this season, but didn't play in that game after the first half. Last week against Baskonia, he played 21 minutes and scored 2 points, matching his second-lowest output ever. De Colo has now gone seven games without scoring 20 points, the only such streak of his in more than three years. All of which means we can expect De Colo to blow up with a big game sooner rather than later.
A pair of undersized centers, Kyle Hines of CSKA and Jordan Mickey of Khimki, might have a lot to say in this game. Hines, the 1.98-meter standard-bearer of little big men, had season highs 14 points, 7 rebounds and 25 minutes played in the loss to Baskonia. Mickey, 2.03 meters, is averaging 15 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 17 PIR over his last five games. Mickey aspires to some of what Hines has accomplished in Europe. Their first meeting should be fascinating.
Keys to victory: CSKA
CSKA has all the cards in this one, starting with its enviable depth, which becomes even more pronounced against an injury-plagued opponent. But CSKA's biggest weapon this week might be the little bit of nasty it surely feels after losing two out of three, a rare occurrence for this team. An off night from the three-point arc (29.7%) hurt against Baskonia, but CSKA's great ball movement rarely fails to generate points. If De Colo and Sergio Rodriguez can get their rhythm back, their teammates will prosper, too, and returning home should cure CSKA's minor dip.
Keys to victory: Khimki
It must all come down to defense for Khimki, which allows opponents the fifth-lowest points in the competition (79.6), but with two important scorers missing, might have to do better than that. Expect Charles Jenkins and Malcolm Thomas to step up for the visitors, but don't forget home-grown veterans Egor Vialtsev and Sergey Monia, who always play with pride when called upon. In this derby so close to their hearts, expect even more from them. Their team will need a dose of inspiration, and who better than those who have fought in Khimki yellow for many years to provide it?
CSKA: Will Clyburn is out indefinitely due to injury.
Khimki: Alexey Shved is still out with a hand injury and Anthony Gill will also be out in the game against CSKA.