Round 25 was an eventful one in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, with four teams notching road wins, reigning champion Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul punching its ticket to the postseason, and CSKA Moscow clinching home-court advantage for the playoffs.
Home-Court Advantage in the 2017-18 EuroLeague
The success of visiting teams this round comes as a surprise as only three EuroLeague teams, the same three already qualified for the playoffs – CSKA, Fenerbahce and Olympiacos Piraeus – have winning records on the road this season. There is no shortage of reasons that teams face an uphill battle winning away from home, ranging from travel fatigue, lack of routine, subtle differences between venues, and the impact of the atmosphere created by opposing fans in the EuroLeague.
Across every game this EuroLeague season, teams are averaging 0.991 points per possession and, as one would expect, eight teams have a positive differential of points-per-possession scored to points-per-possession allowed. The graph above depicts the performance of EuroLeague teams in terms of offensive and defensive points per possession in away games compared to that 0.991 average. As the graph suggests, only a few teams have been able to perform at an above-average level away from their home arena. In fact, only four teams have a positive efficiency differential on the road this season: CSKA Moscow, Fenerbahce, Real Madrid and Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz.
Home-court advantage is a very real factor in the EuroLeague on a game-by-game basis. The graph above is specific to home games and compares team performance to the same average as the first diagram. Nearly every team has performed better on both ends of the floor at home compared to their performance on the road, but there are a few notable exceptions. Two teams have been better offensively on the road this season than at home, though by just a 0.01 points per possession margin: Real Madrid and Fenerbahce. Only three teams have been better defensively: CSKA, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan, and Baskonia. Of those five teams bucking the trend, only Milan is a true outlier, it has been 0.08 points per possession better defensively on the road than at home. 0.08 points per possession may not seem like much, but that is the difference between the top defense in the EuroLeague this season and the team ranked 11th. Or, put another way, Milan is the only EuroLeague team that has played better in any significant way on the road, offensively or defensively.
Coincidentally, the average EuroLeague team is 0.08 points per possession better at home than on the road, but home-court advantage has meant very different things, team by team. For CSKA Moscow, for example, playing at home has simply been a bonus. Its positive differential on the road of 0.12 points per possession is higher than every team except one, Olympiacos, has posted in home games.
That is not particularly surprising as Peace & Friendship Stadium is home to the strongest home-court advantage in the EuroLeague this season. Olympiacos has been 0.14 points per possession better than its opponents in home games this season and has performed 0.2 points per possession better than it has on the road. Translating points per possession differential into wins, Olympiacos plays like a 26-win team in the friendly confines of Piraeus.
Interestingly, the only team with a home-court advantage this season comparable to that of Olympiacos is its archrival, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, which has been 0.17 points per possession better when taking the court at Olympic Sports Center Athens than on the road. Both Greek giants benefit more from playing in the comforts of their own arenas offensively than any other EuroLeague teams. Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade rounds out the top-three EuroLeague teams in terms of statistical home-court advantage this season and there's little doubt that noise is a factor when they take the floor in the Serbian capital. Other notables include FC Barcelona Lassa and Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv, which benefit from the biggest improvement in defensive play when playing at home.
Whether it is the familiarity of the arena or the inspiration drawn from energetic fans, it is always difficult to beat a team in its own gym in the EuroLeague. Clinching home-court advantage for the playoffs clearly gives CSKA an inside track to the Final Four, which presents its own challenges given the unique atmosphere created at a neutral venue.