Every quarter is a different story this season when it comes to which Turkish Airlines EuroLeague teams are the most efficient in each 10-minute stretch of the game.
From an analytics perspective, the matchup between CSKA Moscow and TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria Gastiez was perhaps the most interesting one that Round 18 had to offer. Entering the game ranked as the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague's two best offensive rebounding units, CSKA pulled down 17 offensive rebounds, shot 50% from beyond the arc, and was +10 in the fourth quarter, but Baskonia claimed the victory at Buesa Arena. Pulling down 11 offensive boards while shooting 11-for-23 from deep, the Spanish club did just enough protecting the rim to claim a hard-fought home win.
Looking back, however, the most impressive performance on paper was Zalgiris Kaunas's 39-point, +26 third quarter effort in their win over Khimki Moscow Region. Down 9 at halftime, Zalgiris ultimately won the game by 27, living up to a trend that has defined the team all season before exploding in Round 18.
Top Offenses by Quarter
Scoring 39 points over 21 possessions, Zalgiris averaged 1.86 points per possession in the third quarter of the win over Khimki, which is among the top single-quarter marks in the EuroLeague in recent years. This was not the first time, however, that Zalgiris transformed a game after halftime. In fact, it has been doing that all season.
The graphic above display's the EuroLeague's most efficient offensive teams by quarter. As it suggests, Zalgiris frequently lowers the hammer in the third quarter and has scored a league-best 1.08 points per possession in the second half overall.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul has been this season's fastest-starting team and the EuroLeague's most prolific pick-and-roll offense. Taking advantage before defenses can adjust, Efes has turned the ball over less frequently and done a decidedly better job attacking the rim and finding rollers to the basket early in games.
In contrast, AX Armani Exchange Milan has built momentum heading into halftime by shooting the lights out from beyond the arc, connecting on 48% of it three-point attempts in the game's second 10 minutes. Milan gets contributions from a variety of shooters as head coach Ettore Messina tends to use his bench liberally. Indeed, Milan does not have a single player ranked in the top 35 of second quarter usage.
Zalgiris is the EuroLeague's top free-throw-shooting team, converting a remarkable 87% across 18 games this season. But it's even better in the 10 minutes after halftime, with Zalgiris shooters making an astounding 97% from the foul line in third quarters. Converting 47% of their three-point attempts and shooting 62% inside the arc, Zalgiris tends to heat up after halftime, with Nigel Hayes leading all players in third-quarter efficiency.
CSKA Moscow's Mike James leads all players in fourth-quarter scoring, averaging 6.2 points per game. Creating extensively off the dribble out of ball screens and isolations, James has been efficient in his own right late in games, but the pressure he puts on opposing defenses has opened up opportunities for his teammates.
With nine teams in the EuroLeague currently averaging more than 1.00 point per possession overall, efficiency continues to rise league-wide after an uneven start to the year. While the data above comes from a somewhat small sample sizes at this stage, a team's performance quarter to quarter can determine games and seasons. The teams that find a formula that leads them to consistent success clearly benefit.
Looking Ahead to Round 19
After ending on a buzzer-beater by Aaron Harrison in Round 4, the matchup between Olimpiacos Piraeus and Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv is one to watch in Round 19. Both teams are on the cusp of the current playoff picture and wins are at a premium, with seven teams within a victory of one another.