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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian League Final Set Despite Arena Problems




Game 1 of the finals in Saratov may be played in an indoor-soccer arena.


CSKA Moscow and Avtodor Saratov, undoubtedly the nation's top two teams, will meet in the Russian basketball league finals, which start Saturday in Saratov.


Both CSKA and Avtodor had little trouble disposing of their semifinal opponents, Samara and Spartak Moscow, respectively, although the army team went the full distance before eliminating Samara in three games.


After losing the semifinal opener in Samara 88-87 last week, CSKA came back with a pair of convincing wins in Games 2 and 3 on its home court Monday and Tuesday.


Meanwhile, Avtodor swept Spartak in two games by a total of 20 points.


The best-of-five finals is a rematch of last year's hard-fought finals in which the Muscovites were able to overcome their opponents only after Saratov's top player, Gintaras Einikis, went out with five fouls in the final minutes of a closely contested Game 5.


CSKA will have to stop the Lithuanian center from dominating at both ends of the court if it wants to win its seventh-straight national title.


Surprisingly, on the eve of this year's series, each team has had problems preparing its home arena for the games.


Avtodor played its regular-season games in a small high school gym and its playoffs in a indoor-soccer arena while the city's main sports palace was under construction.


On Wednesday, Avtodor management reported that the new 5,000-seat facility is ready for use, but it still needs approval from the Russian Basketball Federation before it can host the finals. The federation was expected to announce its decision Friday afternoon.


"In any case, it's a good possibility that at least one game of the finals will be played in the new arena," federation spokesman Andrei Vatutin said. "If the series goes four or five games, then we definitely can schedule both matches in the new palace."


Games 2 and 3 are scheduled for May 13 and 14 in Moscow, while Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will be played in Saratov.


Meanwhile, CSKA may have problems with its home arena.


Last week, a large reconstruction project was begun on the CSKA Sports Palace in preparation for the start of the World Youth Games in July. The team, however, still played its semifinal series against Samara at the arena.


The construction has closed all but one of the entrances to the arena, which could cause safety problems with crowdsexpected to reach 4,000.


"There are no immediate plans to move the finals to another place in Moscow," Vatutin said. "We'll deal with a situation as is."