How they got to the Final 8: Nizhny Novgorod
NIZHNY NOVGOROD (Russia) - The Final 8 hosts, Nizhny Novgorod, will face old foes Casademont Zaragoza in the first Quarter-Final of the season-ending tournament, on May 5. Here's a look at what helped the Russian team get here.
What is special about Nizhny Novgorod?
- Nizhny were the best three-point shooting team among the 16 sides that made it to the Play-Offs, as they convert an impressive 43.5 percent of their three-point shot attempts on average. Interestingly, the Russian team share top spot with Lenovo Tenerife for most made triples this season with 11.3 made threes per game, or 136 in total.
- The Russian side shot the ball so well from downtown that the only two games this season in which they made fewer than 10 three-pointers were the two final games of the Play-Offs, against SIG Strasbourg and AEK, when Nizhny had already clinched qualification to the Final 8.
- Nizhny however are only sixth among Final 8 teams (and 18th overall in the league) in two-point field goal percentage, shooting 53 percent from within the arc. Thanks to their excellent three-point shooting though, Nizhny's effective field goal percentage (eFG%) is a very solid 57.9 percent, the second-highest among Final 8 teams.
- The Final 8 hosts hold opponents to 49.9 percent two-point shooting, as one of only three teams that manage to hold opponents below 50 percent. They are not in the top-5 in terms of perimeter defense, as they allow opponents to shoot 35.2 percent from beyond the arc, but that is still a very solid effort.
- What all of the above boils down to is that while Nizhny do not excel in a single defensive or offensive metric, they fare quite well on both ends of the floor, and they have an almost double-digit difference, the third-highest among title contenders, between offensive and defensive rating. Nizhny's offensive rating is 115.3 points per 100 possessions and their defensive rating is 105.8 points per 100 possessions.
- Nizhny's bench unit contributes 34.9 points per game on average and that might not sound remarkable, but the Russian team have no less than nine players averaging at least 7 points per game (nine players who are still active with the team and are eligible to play in the Final 8) and that it is very indicative of the plurality of their offense.
- Nizhny's leading scorer, and the league's 7th leading scorer, is none other than Kasey Shepherd who was named Play-Offs MVP. The 26-year-old point guard, who is averaging 18.1 points per game, is the only player this season to have posted four 20+ points games off the bench.
The 2020-21 Nizhny Novgorod highlights
Nizhny finished second in group D on a 4-2 record, right behind their Quarter-Final rivals Casademont Zaragoza. Their two losses came in the two games against the Spanish team, but they were both very narrow defeats. Nizhny lost 78-75 at Zaragoza and three weeks later succumbed to a 98-92 overtime loss at home.
Nizhny started off the Play-Offs with four wins in as many games, became the first team to secure qualification to the Final 8, and still finished in first place in Group K, despite losing the final two games in the group. Their two most impressive wins were arguably the 84-71 win at Turk Telekom on gameday 3, behind a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double by Anton Astapkovich and an 88-60 victory over AEK, the heaviest defeat any team has ever handed the Greek club in the five-year history of the BCL.
The last shot
The clash between Nizhny and Zaragoza is the only Quarter-Final which features two rivals that have already played each other this season, but it would be a mistake to take those two Regular Season games as a blueprint. Nizhny had several players missing due to the virus and to injuries while Zaragoza have undergone roster changes since then and have a new coach.
Two things that are likely to remain the same though is first, that Nizhny are a much better (or more reliable, rather) three-point shooting team and second, that Zaragoza are scoring more in transition (averaging 14.5 fast-break points per game compared to Nizhny's 8.5 fast-break points per game).