There are many metrics that show that the 2020-21 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague was the closest and most competitive ever. From the tight regular-season standings, through three playoff series that went the distance to the semifinals decided in the closing seconds and a thrilling championship game, the EuroLeague season provided drama and excitement at every turn.
One of the ways the thrills could be seen was the fact there were so many close games. So many that CSKA Moscow, which finished the regular season tied for the league’s best record at 24-10, became the first team in competition history to win six consecutive games by less than 10 points.
The streak began in Round 6 with an 84-75 victory over Valencia Basket. It continued with a 6-point road win at Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, a 3-point triumph at home over TD Systems and wins at Zalgiris Kaunas by 9 and FC Bayern Munich by 8 before it defeated Real Madrid 74-73 in Round 11. The CSKA streak only ended because it trounced Olympiacos Piraeus 80-61.
CSKA went on to win 12 games in a row, with three-quarters of those coming by less than 10 points. For the season, 16 of CSKA’s regular-season wins were by single digits as were seven of its 10 defeats.
The Muscovites were not the only team with many close calls this season. In fact, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, came close to matching CSKA’s fresh mark when it won five straight games by less than 10 points between Rounds 22 and 26.
Before ASVEL, the last team to win five straight games by less than 10 points was Maccabi Tel Aviv the season before, 2019-20. The Israeli champs actually won five straight by one shot between Rounds 23 and 27 with two victories by 3 points, one by 2 points and two by a single point. Maccabi was on the wrong side of the razor’s edge this past season when it lost 10 games by less than 5 points, which was the most ever by a team in the current EuroLeague format
As basketball fans, what more could we ask for than close games decided in the final minutes – or even better, the final seconds? The 2020-21 season delivered that way time and time again.