One big quarter can go a long way in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
What a difference a quarter can make
One of the most interesting statistical anomalies in the two-round week was the contrast between Olympiacos Piraeus’s performance in the fourth quarter of their loss to Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Round 11 and the first quarter of their win over Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv in Round 12. Dropping the final stanza on Wednesday night by a score of 20-3 after trailing by just 2 at the third-quarter break, Georgios Bartzokas’s team made amends the first opportunity they could by jumping out to a 35-8 lead by the end of the first quarter on Friday.
Taking over 10 minutes at a time
Efficiency trends at the quarter level have been fascinating to monitor in recent years as the EuroLeague’s shooting boom actually had points per possession even across all four quarters. Last season, first halves were marginally more efficient than second halves with quarters having little bearing on those differentials. This season, efficiency has tended to peak in the second and fourth quarters with a notable dip in fouls called in the first quarter and some cold early third-quarter shooting.
Despite efficiency varying wildly this season by quarter, several teams have been consistently dominant for particular stretches in the early going. The graphic above displays the top team in efficiency differential - or the number of points per possession a team scores less the number it allows - by quarter.
Two things stand out about the numbers noted above. First, the size of those margins is staggering. For reference, Anadolu Efes Istanbul was on pace to record one of the top efficiency margins in EuroLeague history during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 campaign. The team's differential sat just below 0.15 points per possession as it lost just four games that season. That suggests that the numbers above, when extrapolated over an entire season, are roughly the equivalent of playing at a 0-loss level.
Second, only five teams have posted a quarter efficiency margin above 0.19 points per possession this season and only 13 have posted one above the 0.09-mark.
Usually, efficiency margins level out relatively early on and the numbers above will surely regress to the mean a bit, but as it stands, what these teams are accomplishing in these quarters stands far above reasonable expectations.
No team has come out swinging quite like Real Madrid this season. While Los Blancos have been solid defensively, they have steadily built early leads with their defense. Allowing just 38% shooting in the first 10 minutes, the 0.76 points per possession they are holding opponents to in the first quarter sits well ahead of EuroLeague-leading 0.88 points per possession FC Barcelona has allowed overall this season.
For its part, Barcelona has been in-step with Madrid’s first-quarter performance defensively allowing only 0.77 points per possession in the second quarter. Incidentally, Barcelona's play on the offensive end tends to pick up in the second quarter as it often seems to feel out its opponents over the first 10 minutes and responds emphatically in the second frame.
While most teams tend to come out of the half somewhat cold from the field overall, FC Bayern Munich has shot a blistering 48% from deep in the third quarter. Its massive efficiency margin in the third quarter is rooted in the fact that it has been the exception to that rule so far this season.
Anadolu Efes has some of the best guard-play in the EuroLeague and that is especially noticeable in the fourth quarter where its turnover rate drops noticeably and its perimeter defense ramps up when it looks to close out games.