Turkish Airlines Euroleague
May 19, 2013
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Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
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Euroleague Basketball's MVP for March: Daniel Santiago, Unicaja
At the start of the month, his team shared a three-way tie in its Top 16 group but faced more road games than either of its rivals. After three games during which he posted the second-best total index rating of any Euroleague player, Unicaja and center Daniel Santiago were Top 16 group winners, marking the highest point the club has ever reached in the continent's top competition. For assuring of Unicaja's historic step forward, Santiago has been chosen Euroleague Basketball's MVP for March. Santiago led Unicaja in scoring and rebounding in March, and also set or matched his personal single-game Euroleague career highs in index rating, points, assists and blocks. Most important, however, were his timing, versatility and efficiency. When Unicaja needed a road win, Santiago delivered a dominant performance. Next, he converted himself into Unicaja's best assist-giver in a head-to-head showdown that clinched both qualification to the next round and first place in the group. The end result: Unicaja heads to the Quarterfinal Playoffs with homecourt advantage in the race for the Final Four. Santiago's role in lifting his team to new heights makes him a deserving choice as Euroleague MVP for March.
Euroleague Basketball's MVP of the Month honor is in its third season. Although statistics and performance ratings are taken into consideration for the award, they alone do not determine who is honored. The winner is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his and his team's performance during the previous month. The award for March covered the three Top 16 games played by all teams during that month, excluding those held on March 1, which were considered to be part of the previous month's award.
Santiago started March with a performance that set the tone for him and his team. Unicaja needed a road win to take control of Group G, and Santiago made sure as he thoroughly dominated the paint in a 76-79 victory over Benetton in Treviso, Italy. Despite foul trouble at times during the game, Santiago piled up 23 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks in just 25 minutes on court, making 9 of his 12 two-point shots. His index rating of 32 that was Unicaja's third-highest by any player this season. That victory broke the part of the tie that
Unicaja had shared with Benetton, which meant that its next game, at home with Dynamo Moscow, was full of opportunity. A victory of any kind was worth qualification to the playoffs, while one by 7 points or more would clinch first place. Even though Unicaja played with a small lineup much of the night, Santiago played a key role in a resounding 73-62 victory that was likely the club's most important ever in the Euroleague. His 16 minutes were so well spent that Santiago finished with the highest index rating on the floor, 21, based on 9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3-for-3 two-point shooting. His first-quarter dunk also put Unicaja ahead for good in the game. Just as important, he helped hold Dynamo frontcourt superstars Lazaros Papadopoulos and Antonis Fotsis to their second-worst individual performances all season. With nothing at stake in the last game of the month, Unicaja lost on the road against Aris TT Bank, but for the third time in a row, Santiago led his team with an index rating of 20 as he scored 13 points on 5-for-6 two-point shooting and pulled 6 rebounds. Altogether for March, Santiago averaged 15 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1.6 assists while making an incredible 80.6% of his two-pointers in the highest-pressure games of the season so far.
In the end, by carrying his team when necessary and otherwise stepping up in key moments, Santiago has led Unicaja through a difficult month of March to what is already its most successful Euroleague season ever - even as he and his teammates keep their aim on the Final Four. His trophy as March MVP will be presented to Santiago at a future Unicaja home game.
Monday, March 26, 2007
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