The first round of the regular season's second half saw co-leaders Real Madrid and Anadolu Efes Istanbul consolidate their lead as the latter defeated third-place FC Barcelona away. Here's a review of the key statistics in the competitive Turkish Airlines EuroLeague landscape coming into the double-round week.
Efes scored an impressive win over Barcelona in the game with the clearest implications at the top of the standings, but the game between LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne and Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade to break up the gridlock of four teams with eight wins more than lived up to expectations with its dramatic finish. ASVEL took home a two-point overtime win in a defensive battle in the first matchup between these two teams in Round 8, but Kevin Punter earned a measure of revenge for Zvezda drilling a last-second three-pointer – his second in as many quarters – to close out a clutch road win.
Punter's jump shot was not the first game-winner to come in the waning seconds of a game this season and it almost surely will not be the last. Though some possessions are far more impactful on wins and losses than others, clutch opportunities are typically defined as any possession used in the last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter or any overtime period when the score is within 5 points. Around 4.9% of all possessions come under those circumstances and they have been converted for a very efficient 0.99 points per possession so far this season – slightly ahead of this year's 0.98 overall average.
CSKA Moscow guard Mike James leads all players having attempted 29 clutch shots this season as teams do not frequently sacrifice execution for the sake of getting one player the ball. Panathinaikos OPAP Athens leads all teams by a comfortable margin in clutch points with 124 and have played a top ranked 236 clutch possessions –122 on offense and 114 on defense.
There are a variety of factors impacting a team's clutch point differential, ranging from its total number of clutch possessions – some teams have played as few as 50 – to which opponent they came against, to how quickly either team built a lead of substance after things got close. Nonetheless, the list above provides some insight into how teams have managed on both sides of the ball in key moments stretches.
Panathinaikos has played more clutch possessions than any other team by a comfortable margin, but its success is more due to defensive performance than volume of opportunities or offensive performance. The Greens have allowed only 0.87 points per possession, improving the seventh-ranked defense overall to the top-ranked one in clutch situations. Coupled with stellar fouls shooting, that has helped them build the EuroLeague's biggest clutch scoring margin.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul is the least surprising team on this list given their placement in the standings. At 128, Efes has played half as many clutch possessions as Panathinaikos, but has posted an impressive point differential nonetheless thanks to star guard Shane Larkin's 1.26 points per possession.
FC Bayern Munich is the biggest beneficiary of timely shot-making of any team on this list. Bayern has played just 82 clutch possession but scored a massive 1.28 points per possession on those opportunities. Maodo Lo, relishing the big moments, has provided 19 points in nine such chances. Bayern has been just as impressive on defense, allowing a third-ranked 0.79 points per possession on clutch opportunities to its opponents.
Zvezda scored 9 points in eight clutch possessions against ASVEL, but despite that dramatic Round 18 shot-making, has consistently done its best work in such situations on the defensive end. Holding opposing shooters to just 4-22 from beyond the arc, Zvezda's late-game ability to contest shots has been key to it stretch of seven victories in nine games.
Looking Ahead to Round 19 and 20
There are two top-five games next week, with Real Madrid taking on CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona facing Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. All four of those teams rank among the top five teams in defensive efficiency while only one can say the same on offense. Simply put, getting stops has been the calling card of this season's top group. It will be interesting to see which teams can rein in the others during the double-round week.