Round 11 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague was highlighted by several exciting comeback victories and timely late-game shooting.
There are few things more exciting in basketball than a late-game comeback, and Round 11 of the EuroLeague featured several frantic finishes. Teams work tirelessly on late-game execution and being able to close games can be the difference between a playoff berth and an early end to a club's season. Synergy Sports Technology gathers information possession by possession, making it possible to filter efficiency data by time and score to identify which EuroLeague teams excel in certain parts of the game.
The First 5 Minutes
Some teams have started games far faster than others during the 2018-2019 EuroLeague season and the table above features the four teams with the top efficiency differential in the first 5 minutes of their games this season, or those who have scored the most points per possession relative to the numbers of points per possession they have allowed. Unsurprisingly, four teams expected to vie for a spot in the postseason own the first four spots, but as the numbers above suggest, even among the top four, some teams have dominated the early part of games this season far more thoroughly than others.
Fenerbahce Istanbul has been nothing short of spectacular in the first 5 minutes of games, scoring at a very high level while allowing their opponents to score on only 37% of the possessions they have faced. The average EuroLeague team is scoring at least one point on 45% of their possessions this season, so Fenerbahce has forced empty possessions at an impressive level.
Zalgiris Kaunas has also started games well due in large part to their EuroLeague-leading 1.26 points per possession in the first 5 minutes. What makes the club's massive scoring efficiency so intriguing is that Zalgiris has achieved it while attempting just 4 three-pointers in the first 5 minutes of games all season. No other EuroLeague team has attempted fewer than 19 three-pointers in the first 5 minutes of games.
Zalgiris has found unprecedented success pounding the ball inside following the opening tip through 11 rounds.
Where Zalgiris has found its success inside, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan has been the EuroLeague's top perimeter shooting team early in games this season. They have come out hot from beyond the arc more often than not, and that, combined with their quick pace, has made them the competition's top scoring team in the first 5 minutes of games.
CSKA Moscow has also shot the ball well from beyond the arc, but they've excelled because of how consistently they have moved the ball to find open spot-up shooters, executing with patience. They have also drawn fouls in the act of shooting at a high rate, helping them rank among the more efficient teams in the EuroLeague in the first 5 minutes this season.
Expanding the range of possessions, the graphic above displays the top EuroLeague team in efficiency differential in each of the four quarters—in order.
As efficient as Milan is in the first 5 minutes, their efficiency differential is actually higher when including the full scope of first quarter action. Their offense does not miss a beat to close the quarter, while their defense steps up to allow them to regularly build early leads.
Real Madrid has excelled in the second quarter as the depth of their roster shines. The defending champs often build leads with their second unit. They get the job done on both ends but have been particularly deadly from the foul line bolstering their offensive numbers.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul has shot the lights out in the third quarters of games, frequently making things interesting heading into the fourth quarter, often by simply shooting themselves back into games. Unlike many teams that falter after halftime, Efes often finds new energy.
No team in the EuroLeague has dominated the fourth quarter like Fenerbahce. They have made shots at an elite level from all over the floor, but also scored well in traditionally inefficient ways, often finding success even when they resort to playing one-on-one in the post or on the perimeter.
Though Fenerbahce has been the EuroLeague's most efficient fourth quarter team overall, that tells a very broad story as it includes possessions when they were ahead by a big margin or were resting some players before the game really began to wind down. To get a better picture of which teams have been most efficient in key moments, we can narrow the scope of possessions to only those in the clutch, commonly defined as the last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime when neither team leads by more than 5 points. Though limiting the sample of possessions to a fairly small number, with some teams having only played 30 clutch possessions so far this season, this viewpoint offers some insight into which teams have come up big with the game on the line.
Real Madrid has relished the pressure of close games this season, scoring with impressive efficiency while playing stifling perimeter defense. Fenerbahce has not been quite as good defensively but has made shots at a higher rate than any other team with the game on the line and generated over 40% of their possessions in highly efficient spot-up situations.
Anadolu Efes and Herbalife Gran Canaria round out the top four thanks to their defensive play late in crunch time. Efes has done an excellent job contesting three-point shots and taking care of the ball themselves, while Gran Canaria has forced turnovers at a striking rate and made almost every key free throw they have taken all year.