Round 23 featured one of the best games of the season from a statistical perspective while Round 24 included one of the very strangest in recent memory.
In one of the can't-miss games of the EuroLeague regular season, CSKA Moscow welcomed Anadolu Efes Istanbul to Megasport Arena in a rematch of the 2019-20 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game. Last spring, CSKA got the best of Efes, 91-83, to secure its second championship in four seasons. This time, Efes showed its growth from last season by securing a hard-fought 82-80 win in what may turn out to be a 2020 Final Four preview.
In just his second game back from injury, Vasilije Micic was the difference for Efes. He shook off the rust he showed in his return a week prior to score 19 points over just 14 possessions while dishing out 5 assists. Following that up with a 22-point performance on just 16 possessions in a win over Zalgiris Kaunas two days later, Micic had one of the best double-round weeks of anyone. That's saying a lot, especially considering he played his first game since early January in Round 22. The rich get richer as the EuroLeague's best offensive team gets even stronger with Micic returning to form."
It may not have had the same gravity in the standings, but Real Madrid's 97-103 win over ALBA Berlin ranks among the most bizarre contests in recent memory from a statistical perspective. In a game of massive runs by both sides, Madrid scored 1.84 points per possession in the the first and third quarters – nearly twice the EuroLeague average – but only 0.73 points per possession in the second and fourth. In contrast, ALBA scored 0.84 points per possession to start each half and 1.42 points per possession to close them.
The extreme contrast between the play of these two teams in a game decided by just 6 points is even apparent down to the fine details. Madrid scored 66 points over just 35 possessions with the lineup of Anthony Randolph, Facundo Campazzo, Jaycee Carrol, Walter Tavares, and Jeffery Taylor on the floor while ALBA used 20 lineup combinations, none of which scored more than 13 points. Facundo Campazzo tied the EuroLeague record by recording 19 assists as Madrid generated 33 points with passes out of the pick-and-roll to just 10 for ALBA, for whom Luke Sikma dished out a team-best 8 assists from the post. Madrid's ball handlers, however, scored only 9 points out of ball-screen actions compared to ALBA's 22. It was a rollercoaster ride for both teams in Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Top Passers' Favorite Targets
In Campazzo's 19-assist performance, he dished 8 assists to Anthony Randolph alone. There are plenty of potent offensive tandems in the EuroLeague, but some point guards, whether by design for by playing style, develop a truly special chemistry with certain teammates.
The graphic above lists the EuroLeague's top five assist combinations this season. Unsurprisingly, Campazzo and Randolph rank prominently. They have linked up frequently all season, but the numbers on this list also speak to how amazing it is for two players to connect on 8 assists in a single game. Randolph's inside-outside ability and overall efficiency make him an easy target, but Campazzo finds him as frequently as nearly any player this season has found a teammate.
Nick Calathes is not only involved in the top two combinations in the EuroLeague this season, but also in several more just beyond the top five. The sheer volume of assists Calathes produces is staggering – 50 more than any other player, in fact! His chemistry with his wings is unique, however, as Papapetrou ranks fifth in the EuroLeague in scoring on cuts – a specialty usually reserved for catch-and-finish centers. Thomas's opportunistic approach to hunting easy baskets has been a strong fit for Calathes's style as he finds him in a variety of ways, whether on quick post duck-ins, on the wings in the open court, or leaking out ahead of the defense for easy fastbreak points.
The majority of Kostas Sloukas's assists to Derrick Williams come in ball-screen situations with Williams as the screener. For most guards, the league-wide trend towards pick-and-roll play similarly drives their assist production, but there are some exceptions. Calathes is the most notable one, but Malcolm Delaney's combination with Nikola Mirotic fits that description as well. By far the most productive scorer among those in the graphic above, Mirotic's ability to use a small advantage to create a scoring opportunity close to the basked makes him an excellent target and one that Delaney exploits often. Fully 30% of Delaney's assists go to Mirotic – the single largest percentage for any one target of a high-volume passer this season.
Looking Ahead to Round 25
With 10 games remaining, the teams on the outside looking into the EuroLeague playoff picture are running out of time to make a real push. KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz's matchup with Zalgiris Kaunas features two teams with a lot to gain over the next few weeks. Zalgiris's record has not reflected its efficiency margin very well on the year, but the team has trended in the right direction, recently winning four of its last six games. Whether that trend continues may depend a lot on its visit to play a Baskonia team with an identical 9-15 that has its own playoffs aspirations.