The double-round featured the single best strength-on-strength matchup the EuroLeague has to offer this season.
In Round 27, The EuroLeague's top-ranked offensive team traveled to where the top-ranked defensive team has consistently locked down opponents this season as Anadolu Efes took on Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv in Menorah Mivtachim Arena. Efes's efficiency on the offensive end is well-documented. They are on pace to be one of the most efficient teams in EuroLeague history by scoring 1.10 points per possession while thriving both at home and on the road. Maccabi has held the title of most efficient defense for much of the campaign, allowing 0.92 points per possession, a figure that drops to just 0.86 points per possession at home.
Holding Efes to only 0.96 points per possession in Round 27, Maccabi could not slow the visiting ball-handlers in the pick-and-roll, but did a nice job rotating to contest spot-up jumpers on the perimeter and dominated the glass to secure a hard-fought, 77-75 victory. With a rebounding margin of +13, Maccabi finished the game with 6 more possessions than Efes. That was ultimately the difference.
After being held to only 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting from the field against Maccabi, his first game back after injury, Shane Larkin scored 40 points on 21 shots against Olympiacos Piraeus in Round 28 to help Efes clinch home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Larkin's outburst was yet another chapter in one of the most impressive individual offensive campaigns in recent memory, but it's easy to forget how far he has come since this point last year. It was not until the tail end of the 2018-19 regular season that Larkins really broke out as the dominant force he is now.
Every year, there are plenty of players who breakout or bounce back as dictated by their role and ability. The list above displays the five most improved players in terms of points per possession among players using over 6 possessions per game both this and last season. There is a heavy veteran presence on this list, which includes Larkin. He averaged an impressive 1.14 points per possession over 10.8 possessions per game last season but was only scratching the surface of the historic shot-making that has allowed him to average 1.29 points per possession over 17.1 possessions per game this season.
Olympiacos forward Georgios Printezis, at 35 years old, is perhaps the most interesting name on this list. He's having his most efficient scoring season since the 2015-2016 campaign. Shooting 50% in one-on-one situations, the veteran big man has re-established himself as a reliable mismatch threat this season.
Fabien Causeur, in contrast, has seen his efficiency rise in by far the best three-point shooting season of his EuroLeague career. Finding a new level of consistency on the perimeter has pushed his efficiency to new heights. He may not fill an especially large role for Real Madrid but is shooting an eFG% of 71% on jump shots deep into the regular season. His teammate Trey Thompkins makes this list due to similarly strong jump shooting in his first year averaging double figures since his EuroLeague debut with Nizhny Novgorod back in 2014-15.
Playing for his fourth team in five years, Chris Singleton has found his range as a floor spacer and pick-and-pop threat to bounce back from what was below-average shooting last season, by his lofty standards. Scoring 1.14 points per catch-and-shoot jumper last season but 1.49 points per attempt this year, the veteran has thrived in Efes's high-powered offense.
Looking Ahead to Round 29
In a matchup of teams vying to maintain their spot in the playoff picture and gain some ground on the crowded 12-win cluster, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens visits Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. Winning eight of the last 12 games, Fenerbahce has been on the rise after sitting just a game out of last place as recently as Round 16. Panathinaikos, in contrast, has lost six of seven to fall behind the group competing for home-court advantage. With two home games remaining in their backloaded schedule, Panathinaikos figures to need at least one road win to stay clear of the long list of teams closing in from the bottom of the playoff picture.