Without happy endings

Top scorers
Astana: Jeremiah Hill (23 + 7 assists), Dushan Ristic (20 + 13 rebounds)
Tsmoki-Minsk: Robert Lowery (20 + 8 assists), Dominez Barnett (15 + 5 assists)

The match in the capital of Kazakhstan promised to be difficult. Firstly, Astana has not yet lost at home. Secondly, our team had only 10 players in Nur Sultan. Three of these guys are only 22 years old.

The home team had a good start: three-pointers by Jeremiah Hill, work in the paint by Dusan Ristic and Coty Clarke got them double digit lead (15:4) 5 minutes after the tip-off. Astana controlled the first half with stable rebounds and more than 50% 3-pointers (51:38).
Tsmoki-Minsk broke the game in the third period. Led by Dominez Burnett – Alexandre Gavrilovic duo (16 points together) the guests scored 29 within 10 minutes and cut the differential down to -7 (67:74).

And they kept on in the decisive quarter. 6 minutes to the buzzer, ex-Astana player Robert Lowery scored from beyond the arc making it a one-shot margin – 77:79.

Minsk’s plan for the clutch was to get the finisher against fatigued Dusan Ristic. And it worked: after drives of Lowery and Branko Mirkovic, the Dragons took the lead twice – 87:85 and 89:87, 1 minute 48 seconds to the end of regulation. Astana, however, managed to adjust the defense. They stopped switching to “hide” the Serbian and didn’t allow another point! Meanwhile, two baskets by Malcolm Hill got the lead for Nur-Sultan: 91:89 with 23 seconds on the clock. Mirkovic and Lowery made long range shots in the decisive attack but none of them managed to become a hero.

Astana head coach Emil Rajkovikj:
That’s an important victory which got us to the upper half of the rankings. After wins over Zenit and Loko we felt pressure and wanted to keep on this winning track against Tsmoki. We were good in the first half, but the opponents got more aggressive after the break. The fourth quarter was crucial as we could be broken psychologically, but the guys showed their mentality and got the W.

Tsmoki-Minsk head coach Rostislav Vergun:
We managed to come back to the game thanks to aggressive defense and teamplay in offense. We could use some more cold blood in the clutch. We switched to individual plays which got nothing for us. Three or four last attacks were not played as we wanted.

Astana - Tsmoki-Minsk 91:89 (28-17, 21-23, 28-23, 17-22)
Tsmoki-Minsk: Bartnett (15 + 2 rebounds + 5 assists), Salash (13 + 7 rebounds +7 assist), Beliankou (3 + 3 rebounds), Mirkovich (7 + 2 rebounds + 4 assists), Gavrilovich (13 +5 rebounds), Liutych V (14 + 5 rebounds), Lowery (20 + 8 assists), Ragazenko (2), Liutych M (2)

Photo: Astana press service