With the playoff picture almost set, here's a look at what drove the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague's top teams to the accomplishment of securing home-court advantage in the playoffs.
FC Bayern Munich scored an important victory over FC Barcelona to grab fifth place heading into the EuroLeague Playoffs while Real Madrid beat Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul to secure sixth place. While there was no shortage of important action on the floor in Round 34, those two games sorted out all but the final playoff qualifier.
One Team, One Stat for Top Seeds
FC Barcelona: +82 with a lineup including Pierre Oriola, Alex Abrines, Cory Higgins, Nick Calathes
The core of Barcelona's rotation has been nothing short of spectacular this season. While Nikola Mirotic has been an absolute force and the EuroLeague's most efficient player, Barcelona's other four rotation players have been responsible for some of the most dominant minutes played in recent EuroLeague history. While the group above has played only 13% of Barcelona's minutes, they have produced a +82 point difference while on the floor. That's nearly 35% of Barcelona's point differential for the season and a better +/- than all but five full teams posted this season. As the postseason progresses, it will be fascinating to see how opposing defenses look to slow down this historically impactful unit.
CSKA Moscow: 0.73 Points Per Late Clock Possession Allowed
CSKA has been the EuroLeague's most polarized defense this season in terms of possession length. CSKA has struggled to contest shots when opponents find early-offense opportunities, allowing a 16th-ranked 1.25 points per possession in transition. Conversely, CSKA's defense ranked first with just 0.73 points per possession allowed when the shot clock runs under 4 seconds. That shows that when CSKA's defenders can keep the ball in front of them, they tend to excel, an angle worth following in its playoff series with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul
Anadolu Efes Istanbul: 1.09 Points Per Pick-and-Roll Possession
No team in the EuroLeague has relied more heavily on pick-and-rolls in half-court situations than Efes, but no team has been so efficient in the two-man game, either. With no shortage of capable ball-handlers, Efes puts considerable pressure on opposing defenses. The ability of Real Madrid to make adjustments and defend the pick-and-roll is a major point of interest going into the playoffs.
AX Armani Exchange Milan: 64% Catch-and-Shoot Efficiency
Milan has spaced the floor more effectively than any team in the EuroLeague this season and shoot an especially impressive eFG% of 69% on unguarded catch-and-shoot jump shots in half-court situations. By moving the defense and finding the open man, Milan has been tremendously efficient. Shavon Shields, Kevin Punter and Luigi Datome have been very reliable in spot-up situations, and their ability to take advantage of the stress that Malcolm Delaney and Sergio Rodriguez put on opposing defenses was key to Milan gaining home-court advantage for its upcoming playoff series vs. FC Bayern Munich.
It is fitting that such a competitive regular season comes down to a decisive, rescheduled, make-or-break final game. Zenit St Peterburg has a chance to complete a bounce-back campaign from sitting at the end of the standing when last season ended prematurely. Zenit will secure a spot in the playoffs with a win over Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Monday night, but will relinquish that spot to eValencia Basket with a loss. With all the wild ups and downs of the 2020-21 campaign, it is no surprise that the regular season comes to a close with a little extra suspense. Zenit controlled the action throughout its Round 18 win over Panathinaikos back in early January and will look for more of the same on Monday at Yubileyny Sports Palace.