Five teams remained undefeated after a competitive Round 2. Here's a review of the key statistics in the current Turkish Airlines EuroLeague landscape.
Round 2 featured no shortage of competitive games, but the most interesting one based on the limited statistical sample available at this point was between Khimki Moscow Region and KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Building a 10-point line by the end of the first quarter thanks to a 12-point outburst from Jannis Timma, Khimki maintained its lead through the end of the game despite Baskonia closing the gap on multiple occasions thanks to the productive play of Tornike Shengelia and Pierria Henry. Scoring 1.23 points per possession in the first quarter compared to 0.81 over the final three against the EuroLeague's second-best defense, it is safe to say Khimki's early outburst played a key role in their victory.
One run might not seem like an especially big deal this early in the season, but game-defining runs could prove absolutely critical should recent playoff trends hold. The EuroLeague experienced a major postseason bubble for the first time in recent history last season when only 1 game separated the 7th place and 12th place finishers at the end of the regular season.
As outlined above, the EuroLeague playoff bubble tends to change year-to-year. The difference between eighth and ninth place two years ago was three victories. So, there is no guarantee that one game will matter late in the season. However, for a pair of teams that could certainly factor in the playoff mix, these moments matter even if there are plenty more of them to come.
Basketball tends to evolve in tactical waves, and recent trends show teams shooting more three-pointers than ever. No team appears more committed to riding that wave than reigning champs CSKA Moscow. With almost half of their field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc through two games, they have attempted 65 three-pointers – 6 more than any other team – and connected on 29 of them, or 44.6%.
The biggest factor in that early success has been how well CSKA has moved the ball and how many of its players can make a defense pay from the perimeter. After last season relying on a handful of shooters and a high volume of pull-up attempts from deep, this season CKSA has nine players who have made at least 2 three-point attempts through two games almost exclusively on catch-and-shoot opportunities. Currently ranked second in overall offensive efficiency, CSKA's early shooting prowess is something to monitor. The champs have started the season by pushing boundaries on shot selection and what it means to space the floor.
Jaycee Carroll Off Screens
Jaycee Carroll's heroics saved Real Madrid from a loss at home to Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv as he drilled a go-ahead three-pointer with 2.4 seconds remaining. Sprinting off a Walter Tavares screen that resulted in a defensive switch, Carroll set his feet, squared his body, and got the ball off a split second before the defense could respond.
Making the difficult seem routine as a jump shooter is nothing new for Carroll, who has led the EuroLeague in off-screen scoring in each of the last five years and is likely responsible for six of the top eight off-screen scoring seasons of all time. Few players can match Carroll's accuracy from beyond the arc in general, but it is his consistency rising into shots in motion that sets him apart as one of the great shooters in EuroLeague history and a truly unique offensive weapon. Real accounts for nearly 90% of all clutch off-screen possessions used over the last five years. It is effectively the only team that runs-off screens as anything other than misdirection in key moments, a luxury that Carroll – who shoots nearly half of his three-pointers on the move– affords them.
There are no true do-or-die games this early in the regular season, but Round 3 does feature an intriguing matchup between the early leaders in offensive and defensive efficiency. Through two games, FC Barcelona has led all teams by allowing just 0.784 points per possession while ALBA Berlin has averaged a top-ranked 1.11 points per possession offensively. In a strength-on-strength matchup, it will be interesting to see how Barcelona handles ALBA's pace and spacing as they integrate Peyton Siva back into their lineup to spell Martin Hermannsson, who has made impressive contributions as a playmaker so far this season.