In one of the best games the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season, Anadolu Efes Istanbul bested second-place Real Madrid to move three wins clear at the top of the standings. Here’s a review of the key statistics in the competitive Turkish Airlines EuroLeague landscape coming into Round 22.
In an extremely competitive game that somehow saw only one lead change, Efes closed out a 75-80 win over Real that highlighted the stylistic differences of two of the EuroLeague’s top teams.
As they have all season, Efes leaned heavily on pick-and-roll play to create shots in half-court situations. With their ball-handlers contributing 25 points and generating another 24 with their passes, last season’s runners-up needed only 43 ball-screen possessions to create those 49 points – which was well ahead of their 41.8 points-per-game pace. With the potent pick-and-roll duo of Vasilije Micic and Bryant Dunston sidelined, Shane Larkin created 28 pick-and-roll points to pace the victors.
Real, in contrast, created only 26 points out of the pick-and-roll. Relying on their shooters off the ball, they used 13 off-screen possessions – which was several more than their EuroLeague-leading 8.2 off-screen possessions per game. Attempting 33 three-pointers overall, Madrid was not shy from the perimeter, with Sergio Llull leading that cause by converting 4 of 8 shots from beyond the arc.
As much as the tendencies of both teams surfaced throughout the game and factored into the result, the free throw disparity is hard to ignore. Real Madrid went a perfect 6-for-6 from the line, but Efes was the aggressor attacking the rim with purpose and converted 20 of the 23 free throws as a result.
As impressive as Larkin’s individual performance was against Real, at different points this season two players have created more than 20 points per game out of the pick-and-roll, shouldering that kind of burden on a nightly basis.
The graphic above lists the top players in points created per game out of the pick-and-roll. Through the end of Round 21, Khimki Moscow Region’s Alexey Shved is on pace to break Thomas Heurtel’s EuroLeague record of 20 points per-game set during from the 2015-16 season. Tallying nearly as many points himself as he creates with his passes, Shved is the top pick-and-roll scorer the season by a comfortable margin while also leading all passers in possessions created for his roll men.
Nick Calathes is just off the EuroLeague record pace in pick-and-roll production even though a large majority of his assists come in other situations – a testament to just how complete of a passer he is. In prime position to break his own single-season assist record, pick-and-roll play is just a small slice of a much bigger pie for the Panathinaikos OPAP Athens playmaker.
Vassilis Spanoulis joined Larkin in scoring over 30 points in Round 21. Creating 27 points out of the pick-and-roll in a loss to Zenit St Petersburg, the Olympiacos Piraeus legend scored in a variety of ways in a tremendous all-around offensive performance that saw him average a gaudy 1.55 points per possession. His ability to see the floor and find cutters off the dribble still stands out among the EuroLeague elite.
Kostas Sloukas leads all players in points created per game with passes out of the pick-and-roll . Scoring only 4.8 points per game out of ball screen actions, Sloukas is over twice as likely to find the open man than look for his own offense when he navigates on-ball picks.
Interestingly, the four teams represented by the players above rank second through fifth in points created out of the pick-and-roll, behind only Efes, whose duo of prolific ball screen creators sets them apart form the rest of the EuroLeague. Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic rank fifth and ninth in points created per game out of the pick-and-roll respectively – the only pair of teammates in the top 12.
Looking Ahead to Round 22
Real Madrid is on its second three-game losing streak of the season and face an uphill battle to right the ship in Round 22 travelling to Israel to take on a Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv team that has been sensational defensively in Menorah Mivtachim Arena.