The EuroLeague leader in transition scoring through half a season, UNICS Kazan, nearly ran its way to one of the best wins of the year.
High Gravity Matchups
Two of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague’s top three defenses and top four teams in the standings heading into Round 17 faced off as UNICS Kazan traveled to Spain to take on FC Barcelona. UNICS had been a revelation this season by already reaching 10 wins – more than in the team’s entire last campaign back in 2016-17. They pushed this season’s most dominant team to the brink in a 111-109 overtime loss on the road in Palau Blaugrana as Barcelona needed almost every one of their all-time record-tying 42 made free throws to secure the victory.
UNICS capitalized on the 14 steals its defenders generated by scoring 18 points in transition, which may not sound like a lot, but by EuroLeague standards, it ranks among the better efforts this season.
The graph above provides some insight into what kind of point production EuroLeague teams get in transition on a nightly basis. EuroLeague offenses have scored 10 or fewer points in transition in two-thirds of the games this season and 6 or fewer in just over a third. Transition opportunities have been converted for a very efficient 1.14 points per possession this season, but only 8.9 points per game. That places those chances well ahead of the 0.94 points per half-court possession teams are scoring against set defenses, but means they account for just 12% of all points scored.
The fact that open-court opportunities are extremely hard to come by in the EuroLeague is what makes UNICS’s scoring output in transition against Barcelona so compelling. Among elite basketball leagues worldwide, EuroLeague teams make a noticeably more consistent effort to prevent advantages in transition. The way they take care of the ball, sprint back, and rally behind the play makes both run-outs after rebounds and quick points off made shots incredibly hard to come by.
Only six teams are averaging more than 10 points per game in transition this season, with UNICS and AS Monaco being the only two at 12.0 or higher. UNICS and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul are the two least surprising teams on the list, because they also lead the EuroLeague in the rate of turnovers they force defensively. Likewise, Real Madrid ranks third in defensive turnover percentage and first in defensive rebounding percentage.
More opportunity outranks efficiency on this list for most of the teams. Olympiacos Piraeus is the exception to that rule, though, as the Reds rank just eighth in transition possessions per game but have scored a league-best 1.30 points with those opportunities to earn their spot here.
AS Monaco is perhaps the most unique case on this list. In their first EuroLeague season, they rank above average in defensive rebounding and turnover percentage, but the aggressiveness of their ball-handlers and the consistency with which they have found trailing big men has made them more productive than one might expect in the open floor.
Transition points matter more some nights than others in the EuroLeague, but they can move the needle for teams who can create opportunities to run consistency.
Looking Ahead to Round 18
The season has just reached its mid-point, but Olympiacos will be vying for their 10th home win of the season as they take on CSKA Moscow in Peace and Friendship Stadium in Round 18. In the other matchup of teams currently in playoff positions, Anadolu Efes travels to take on UNICS as they look to continue their winning ways. The defending champions have gone 8-3 after starting the season 1-5.
Seen at: Euroleague.net