The 7DAYS EuroCup Finals features two teams that followed very different paths to the crowning event of the season. Now, starting on Tuesday with Game 1 of their best-of-three title series, it's time to see if AS Monaco or UNICS Kazan has more staying power to lift the EuroCup trophy.
The graph above places every team in the 2020-21 7DAYS EuroCup in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency. The main thing that stands out about the above is how much parity existed behind Segafredo Virtua Bologna this season. Teams were so well-matched on both ends of the floor that almost every game, all season long, has been a battle. UNICS Kazan and AS Monaco may not have been dominant statistically, but they weathered that grueling gauntlet of tough games to earn their passage to the finals and their eligibility for the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague next season.
UNICS Kazan was faced with a daunting semifinal matchup against Virtus. The Russian team's outlook appeared bleak at best after a narrow loss in Game 1, but after holding serve in Game 2 at home. UNICS managed to put together its best offensive performance of the season to score the upset in Game 3. UNICS scored 1.24 points per possession in that decisive win – its top mark of the season and one of the top marks any team has posted all year. That alone was remarkable, but doing it on the road with a EuroLeague berth hanging in the balance against a Virtus defense that had held opponents to a top-ranked 0.89 points per possession is simply spectacular. It may ultimately stand as the signature game of the 2020-21 season.
AS Monaco, in contrast, used a stellar string of defensive efforts to nearly sweep its way through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Allowing a top-five ranked 0.91 points per possession this season overall, Monaco held its playoffs opponents to just 0.86 points per possession by doing an excellent job protecting the rim down the stretch and simply grinding opposing offenses to a halt for stretches.
Monaco's perimeter defense will be the bigger key to these finals, though. That defense has allowed a second-ranked 0.89 points per jump shot in half-court situations this season. UNICS has scored a top-10 ranked 1.06 points per attempt in those same situations, but that only paints a partial picture of how explosive they can be when EuroCup MVP Jamar Smith, Isaiah Canaan and Nate Wolters find their range.
Players to Watch
Matthias Lessort has been more and more of a key for Monaco as the season has progressed. After using 10.8 possessions per game through the end of the Top 16, Lessort's usage soared to 16 possessions per game in the playoffs as has emerged as Monaco's primary offensive weapon. His matchup with UNICS forward John Brown is a major point of interest.
For UNICS, as well as Okoro White and Jamar Smith have been, Nate Wolters came up big down in the semifinals wins over Virtus. Having not played the previous month, he came back for a small stint in Game 2, adding 8 points, 2 steals and an assist to the UNICS cause on perfect shooting over less than 6 minutes. In Game 3, he had 17 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and just 2 misses in 24 minutes. All told, Wolters scored 1.92 points per possession in those games, and was quietly critical to UNICS's ultimate success.
With each of these teams coming up with some timely individual and group efforts over the last month, the finals figure to a fascinating battle with no shortage of potential x-factors.