Real Madrid will compete in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs for the eighth consecutive season, but this time it used a different path to reach the final eight. Known for its transition offense, Real's main weapon so far in 2020-21 has been its efficient defense, which has forced opponents to take tough shots and have poor ball circulation. Of course, as everyone says, when you play good defense, offense comes and Real is no exception.
Real improved its two-point shooting percentage during the regular season, starting in 14th place and finishing fifth (56.2%). Its transition game was not as efficient as in recent years, ranking 18th in fastbreak points and eighth in assists (18.2 apg.). That is its lowest assist average since the 2013-14 campaign (17.8 apg.).
On the other hand, Real committed just 13.2 turnovers per game and dropped from 16th place to sixth as the season went on. When it came to steals, however, it was the other way around. Despite ranking fourth at one point, Real ended up 14th overall (6.4 spg.).
Real started the season ranked third in both free-throw and three-point shooting percentage, but those numbers went down as the competition went on. Los Blancos placed 12th in shooting percentage from downtown (37.1%) and 10th from the foul line (79.3%) at the end of the regular season.
Even so, Real was one of the best scoring teams in the competition; it ranked seventh overall with 80.1 points per game. It marks the team's lowest scoring average since the 2012-13 season (79.4 ppg.). In short, Real excelled on defense and played at a different rhythm.
Real has been a dominant force in defense, boxing out and protecting the paint better than anyone else in the EuroLeague. Real ranked first in defensive rebounds (24.5 drpg.) and was also atop the charts in blocks (3.4 bpg.).
All those defensive efforts helped Real to have the second-best numbers in two-point shooting percentage: opponents made only 51.0% of their shots inside the arc against Los Blancos. Real not only rebounded well under its basket, but only let opponents get a league-low 9.0 offensive boards. If you get most of the rebounds around your rim, controlling the game rhythm is easier.
Real was also really active on defense, keeping opponents last in assists with just 14.4 per night. Teams didn't shoot particularly well from beyond the three-point line (37.6%) against Real, either.
Even though Real's defense was excellent, there is room for improvement, as Los Blancos forced opponents into 12.5 turnovers on average, which ranked 17th overall. Real, however, had great defensive balance, ranking third-lowest in fastbreak points allowed and eighth in points off turnovers.
Real retained some of the offensive virtues it's had over the years and has improved its defense. It will have the chance to show it against an efficient offensive team in Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Efes has the home-court advantage in the best-of-five series, which starts in Istanbul on Tuesday, April 20.