Unmatched three-point consistency
Not only did Lokomotiv make the most three-pointers in the Top 16, but it became the first team ever to hit double-digit three-point shots in 10 Top 16 games. The previous record was seven games with 10 or more threes shots by EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and Zalgiris Kaunas in 2013-14. It is also two more games than what the other three playoff teams from Top 16 Group E combined for during the entire Top 16 campaign; Fenerbahce had four, Zvezda two and Panathinaikos one. In those 10 games, Lokomotiv had a 7-3 record. During the Top 16, Lokomotiv had 12 games in which at least five different players knocked down at least 1 three-point shot, and in eight in which at least six players made a shot from downtown, including eight players in the Top 16 finale. In the Round 6 road game at Unicaja Malaga, Lokomotiv made 16 three-point shots, which is tied for most in a single Top 16 game this season, and tied for second most in the Top 16 over the past seven years. Lokomotiv’s average of 11 threes per game was the most in Top 16 history, in front of Laboral, which averaged ’s 10.7 threes in the 2010-11 campaign.
Bartzokas’s reliable rotation
Only 11 players from seven different teams played in and started each game this season. Lokomotiv is the only team with three such players: the competition’s outright minutes leader Malcolm Delaney, Ryan Broekhoff and Victor Claver. Moreover, Evgeny Voronov missed only one start the entire season, but played in all 24 games, while Anthony Randolph missed only one start in the Top 16. Lokomotiv had only eight different players start at least one game this season, which is the fewest of all teams. The five regular starters, along with Dontaye Draper and Chris Singleton off the bench, make the core rotation that has led Lokomotiv to its first ever playoff appearance. It is the way Coach Georgios Bartzokas usually leads his teams. In each of his other two full seasons in the competition, his debut with BC Maroussi and on the way to the Euroleague title with Olympiacos in 2013, Bartzokas used just nine starters. This year, Delaney carried more load than any other player in Euroleague, playing 80 more total minutes for an average of almost four minutes more per game than the next player in the competition.
Experience is on Barcelona's side
No other team has featured in more playoffs games since this format returned for the 2004-05 season. Barcelona has taken part in 37 games, of which it has win 21 to advance to six Final Fours. Juan Carlos Navarro ranks second in Euroleague playoffs games with 32, trailing only Panathinaikos Athens legend Dimitris Diamantidis. Stratos Perperoglou (22 games) and Ante Tomic (21) also have plenty of playoffs experience. The Lokomotiv players combine for just 16 Euroleague playoffs games between them, led by eight playoff appearances by Dontaye Draper, so it is safe to say Barcelona has an advantage in that matter. Navarro is also the all-time playoffs leader in performance index ranking (458), scoring (474 points), three-pointers made (190) and fouls drawn (162)
Different than the regular season
Lokomotiv and Barcelona played each other in the regular season group, and split 4-point home wins. In Round 5 in Palau Blaugrana, Barcelona won 72-68. At the time, it was Barcelona’s fourth straight win, a winning streak that ended up being six games long. Two-time All-Euroleague center Ante Tomic led Barcelona with 16 points, and career highs of 7 assists and 3 steals. Barcelona held the visitors to 46.5% shooting on two-pointers and 30.4% for triples, as Lokomotiv’s backcourt duo of Malcolm Delaney and Dontaye Draper accounted for 38 of their team’s 68 points. Two big men who got minutes in that game will not be part of this series, as Barcelona’s Shane Lawal is injured, and Kyrylo Fesenko is no longer with Lokomotiv. In Round 10, which was a direct clash to win first place in Group C, Lokomotiv beat Barcelona on its home floor 78-74. Delaney shined in victory with 19 points and 9 assists, and Barcelona had no answer for versatile big man Anthony Randolph, who back after injury had 16 points, 7 boards, 3 steals and 2 assists in less than 24 minutes. Juan Carlos Navarro has his best game of the season for Barcelona, with 22 points on 5-for-8 three-pointers, and Tomic collected 17 points, 7 boards and 3 assists. However, Lokomotiv as one of the best three-point teams in the competition was held in that game to below-its-standards 8 of 23 three-point shooting.
Forcing bad shots, limiting turnovers
Defense has allowed Barcelona to be successful in the playoffs for many years. Indeed, Barcelona has allowed 69.7 points on average since 2005 in the playoffs. Only CSKA Moscow (67.6 ppg. allowed) had better defensive numbers than the Spanish powerhouse. Barcelona has forced opponents to low shooting percentages (49.2% of two-point shots and 35.4% from downtown). Barcelona is also last in turnovers (9.9 per game) in playoffs history. In general, forcing opponents to take tough shots and taking care of the ball has worked really well for Barcelona throughout the years. It will be interesting to see how that experience will work against Lokomotiv, which makes a respectable 51.4% of two-point shots this season, and is coming off one of the best-ever three-point shooting campaigns in Top 16 history .
Unknown territory for Barcelona
Barcelona has been to the playoffs every season since 2006, but this time things will be a bit different. In the 10 consecutive seasons it has reached the playoffs, Barcelona has had home-court advantage every time with the exceptions of 2007 and 2008. Thus, this marks the first time in eight years that Barcelona plays its playoffs opener on the road. Barca has a 7-1 record in series openers on its home floor. The only Game 1 it lost at home was against Tau Ceramica Vitoria, 75-84, in 2009, however, Barcelona eventually came back with a Game 4 win in Vitoria and went on to win the series at home in Game 5. Things have been rougher for Barcelona when starting the series on the road. In 2007, Unicaja grabbed a 91-75 win in Game 1 of best-of-three series behind 17 points from Marcus Faison and ended winning the series 2-1 to reach the Final Four in Athens. The following season, Maccabi took Game 1, downing Barcelona 81-75 behind 15 points from Esteban Batista. Maccabi went on to advance to the Final Four that season in Madrid, again after a maximum three games. Accordingly, Barcelona has 0-2 all-time record in Euroleague playoff Game 1s on the road, and has never won a series in which it did not have the home-court advantage. The only difference this time is that Barcelona has never played on the road in Game 1 of a best-of-five playoff series.