Research by Utkan Sahin/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Text in english by Mete Budak/ email@example.com
Artwork: Giorgos Soulas
It is usually the last five minutes of play that decide the outcome of a basketball game. When two teams go into the last five minutes neck and neck, what took place in the first 35 minutes instantly flies out of one’s mind and a brand new five-minute game begins.
Five minutes to win, five minutes to lose. It is now double the effort and suffering. It is precisely the time when heroes emerge from their teams to establish their superiority over others. And the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, in its new format, brings the joy of watching close battles between giants with greater frequency than ever before!
Since the fans are exposed to more games of higher intensity, there are more reasons to look into the ways teams and players handle the clutch moments. So, come on a ride with us and find out which teams and which players have gotten the most out of the last five minutes in EuroLeague action thus far in the season!
It’s probably not a surprise to anyone that CSKA Moscow‘s Nando De Colo, the reigning MVP of the EuroLeague, occupies the top spot on the list. The Frenchman has only played five games that were decided in the last five minutes and he absolutely dominated all of them! De Colo has averaged 4.8 points in that clutch period and tops the list.
Unics Kazan’s star, Keith Langford, has lived up to his name, too! He is having a career-best season and is currently the EuroLeague’s leading scorer. Unsurprisingly, he also likes to take over for his team when things get tight and need sorting out. The American scoring ace has averaged 4.5 points and was especially impressive on the night of Round 5 against Fenerbahce Istanbul and Round 6 against Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade. Therefore, he’s placed second on the list.
Is this something unexpected for you? Not for us! Former EuroLeague champion Ricky Hickman is getting in shape again with EA7 Emporio Armani Milan and he’s usually the one who rises above in clutch moments, and does so by relying heavily on free throws. He was lethal against his former team, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, in Round 1, scoring 12 of his total 22 points in the last five minutes to win the game.
Bradley Wanamaker of Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul doesn’t mind putting the weight on his shoulders, either. Darussafaka have played many close games this season, 10 to be precise, and Wanamaker scored 11 shots from a total of 23 attempts in the clutch moments, making him the top scorer in the EuroLeague in this category, alongside Langford.
Brose Bamberg, just like Darussafaka, have played 10 games which they lost or won in the clutch period. However, they only won three out of those 10, and things haven’t gone their way most of the time. Two players seem to have the ball in their hands more than any other for Bamberg: Darius Miller and Janis Strelnieks. Miller has shot 7-for-24 from the field, whereas Strelnieks has been much more efficient, making 9 of his 13 attempts down the stretch of close games.
Maccabi‘s American scoring machine, Andrew Goudelock, has one of the best records when it comes to clutch time shooting, as he’s 8-for-14 from the field, finding his name on both lists, for total points and best percentages.
It’s frequent to see backcourt players in the spotlight at the ends of games. It doesn’t quite work like that at Zalgiris Kaunas! The forceful frontcourt duo of Brock Motum and Paulius Jankunas are the ones who have carried their team late in games thus far. Jankunas has been only 4-for-7 from the field but he caused damage from the free throw line. Motum, however, has an impressive 9-for-10 field goal percentage, which aggregates to 20 points.
Serbian magician, Milos Teodosic, has pulled the strings for CSKA, especially in the absence of De Colo. Well… it’s hard to forget what he did in Bamberg on the night of Round 10, scoring 12 points in the last five minutes, out of his 31 in total.
There is a fine line between being a good scorer and being a good scorer at the end of a game. Although it’s a fine line, it’s an important one. Even as we fans feel our hands shake while watching, these players’ don’t while playing! Here’s the list of those players.
Zalgiris‘s aforementioned Motum has a 90 percent accuracy rate that is dazzling in every respect. Two centers follow close behind: Bamberg’s Daniel Theis and Unics’s Artsiom Parakhouski, both of whom have made 7 out of 8 shot attempts.
The historic final of 2012 in Istanbul proved the coolness of Georgios Printezis as well as his ability to change the game when pressure is at its highest point. He’s familiar with these conditions and he dramatically altered the outcome of the game against Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens in Round 8.
Real Madrid forward Anthony Randolph is one of those unsung heroes who is not his team’s main scoring option in the clutch, but doesn’t hold back from being efficient when his time comes. Panathinaikos‘s James Gist is very similar to Randolph, as he never shied away from taking responsibility and stepping up for his team.
It’s not surprising to see big men with good skills ending up being ranked at the top of this list. However, Strelnieks and Goudelock are surprising entries. Bamberg’s Latvian guard knows really well how to make shots and stay hot in crunch time. And Maccabi’s Goudelock doesn’t shy away, even if he has to share the ball with other stars on the team. Being one of the most unstoppable offensive players in the league, he’s not even in the least bit hesitant to use his scoring abilities in close games and at critical moments.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul’s defensive-minded center, Bryant Dunston, is also a great finisher close to the rim, even in stressful situations. Darussafaka’s EuroLeague rookie, Will Clyburn, on the other hand, always raises his energy to a high volume, takes advantage of his well-known athleticism and does different kinds of things on the court. Being a multifaceted player, he had a big impact on the outcomes of the games against Zvezda in Round 1 and CSKA in Round 7.
Now that we have completed the general list of players who did a terrific job at executing in clutch time, it’s time to find out about each team’s best players in this particular area.
What about team performances in terms of executing in the clutch phase?
With names like Langford, Parakhouski and Quino Colom, Unics’s efficiency on offense is to be expected. The Russians might not have been able to reflect this efficiency in their winning record yet; they still hold a +16 point-differential. They have lost a lot of close games and the main reason for this seems to be their defensive commitment.
Zalgiris’s offense relies heavily on their frontcourt with Sarunas Jasikevicius calling the shots and it apparently works just fine. They are the second best team in scoring during clutch time.
Bamberg are known to collapse at the end of games this season, however statistics indicate a different source for their problems than what many thought. Their offense flourishes at critical moments, whereas their defense has let them down so far.
Current EuroLeague leaders CSKA are not shooting the ball as well as one would think. Their field goal percentage is as low as 39.58%, however they do not have any issues in closing games out thanks to their ability to get to the line. From this perspective, they have scored 55.2% of their late offensive possessions and have dropped only one game in the season thus far.
Looking for the worst clutch-time performers in the EuroLeague, Zvezda draws all the attention. Only 26.3% of their offensive possessions resulted in points, plunging them low in the rankings.
Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz have specialized in turning the end of their games into a dry spell. They let opponents score only 27.9% of their attempts and Baskonia scores only 29.8% in the closing minutes.
Milan have suffered heavily from the negative imbalance between their offensive and defensive ratings. They are the worst clutch-time defending team (57.1%) and one of the worst clutch-time attacking teams (30%).
Zeljko Obradovic‘s Fenerbahce is the fourth worst team in scoring in the closing minutes (33.3%), however this hasn’t really been a problem for them. They’ve already collected 8 wins, mainly because their defensive ratings are quite solid! They have conceded points only in 34.9% of their late defensive possessions, which puts them at third place for best defense in clutch time.
And we’ve come to the end. We evaluated the clutch time performances of the players and the teams competing at the highest level of European basketball. Will the stats show a different outcome in the coming days? We will find out together!
Note-1: Clutch time calculation: During the fourth quarter or overtime, with less than five minutes remaining, and neither team ahead by more than ten points.
Note-2: Players having fewer than 5 shots attempts in the last five minutes are excluded from the data of individual player stats.