While we are only 10 games into 2022-23 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague regular season, the last several weeks have felt much longer for some teams than others – even if the standings do not show it.
Stats Review: Pressure possessions
The graph above tracks the percentage of each team’s total fourth-quarter possessions this season where the margin on the scoreboard has been no more than 5 points. So far this season, nearly 40% of all possessions in the fourth quarter of EuroLeague games have been played under those circumstances, but the spread among teams is significant.
On the extremes, Zalgiris Kaunas has played 55% of its fourth-quarter possessions with the score inside of 5 points. Standings leader Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, perhaps unsurprisingly, has played just 16% of its possessions under those circumstances. Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are the only other two teams to play less than a third of their late game possessions under high pressure with 10 teams falling between 35% and 45% on the year.
Despite keeping its fans on the edge of their seats so often – during its Round 10 win at Valencia Basket, neither team led by more than 5 the entire fourth quarter – Zalgiris nonetheless holds sole possession of sixth place in the standings. Even if their games have not been for the faint of heart, they have kept their opponents at bay in key moments.
Crunch time has been fairly good to Zalgiris, which has the EuroLeague’s highest close-game fourth-quarter point differential, +26, so far this season. The stellar play of Keenan Evans and the synergy between Kazys Maksvytis’s playcalling and the team’s shot makers have been keys for Zalgiris in high-stress situations. No other team living on the edge has achieved similar success closing games, with only Madrid and Fenerbahce eclipsing the +20 line by pummeling opponents in their relatively infrequent close late-game encounters.
AS Monaco has had the most success among the teams fighting more often than not in close games. The ability to survive in tight spots thanks to its explosive-scoring guards has helped Monaco to a 7-3 record, matching Olympiacos Piraeus, Madrid and Barcelona, clubs who have been able to breathe easier at ends of games.
Ultimately, the competitiveness of the EuroLeague in its current format means there will always be plenty of heart-racing action week to week. Some teams even seem to gravitate to it, but that does not always mean as much to their record as one might expect.