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Panathinaikos's Siskauskas awarded April MVP
It's impossible to overstate the importance of the Quarterfinal Playoffs to all players and teams involved. The best-of-three playoff series are the last step prior to the Final Four dream that stands as a season-long goal for the most ambitious Euroleague clubs. This season, one team in particular would have been devastated not to survive the playoffs, because then it would have been forced to watch - instead of participate in - a Final Four on its own court. That will not be the case for Panathinaikos, thanks in part to small forward Ramunas Siskauskas, Euroleague Basketball's choice as MVP for April. Despite coming off an injury, Siskauskas helped make sure that Panathinaikos needed only two games to win its playoff series against Dynamo Moscow. He led the Greens in index rating, points, rebounds and minutes played in their two-game playoff sweep. And just at the time of year when defenses make life most difficult for shooters, Siskauskas proved undaunted from long distance. He attempted 8 three-pointers during the two games with Dynamo and splashed 7 of them through the net for an incredible 87.5% accuracy rate! His outburst to start the series sent Panathinaikos to an easy Game 1 victory, and then he made sure there was no drama by dominating Game 2 on the road. For having a sure hand under high pressure to help his new team go home to the Final Four, Ramunas Siskauskas deserves to be called the best of the month for April.
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 April was based on the Quarterfinal Playoffs, best-of-three series involving eight teams total: half of them played two games in April and the others three. There are no more games in April besides those of the Quarterfinal Playoffs.
Due to a leg injury that had kept him out of the last two Top 16 games, Siskauskas was something of a surprise starter on April 3, when 15,000 fans packed OAKA arena in Athens for the series opener with Dynamo. Those fans didn't have to wait long to know that Siskauskas was not only back, but also on form. A triple got him going in the middle of the first quarter like a spark to a firecracker. He soon exploded for 7 points in a row as the Greens led 23-11 after 10 minutes. He then opened the second quarter with his third triple in as many tries, giving him half the points in a 26-11 lead that Panathinaikos never saw seriously threatened during the rest of the game. The Greens won handily, 80-58, while Siskauskas finished with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. For Game 2, just 48 hours later, Siskauskas waited until after halftime to catch fire. He then stroked twice from downtown to push Panathinaikos ahead by 15 points for the first time all game. Twice after that when Dynamo trimmed the difference to singe digits, Siskauskas went to the arc, buried another shot and kept the Greens on the safe path to a 65-73 road. He finished with team highs of 19 points, 6 rebounds and 33 minutes played. The bottom line, however, was that he and Panathinaikos had qualified for the Final Four, Siskauskas for the first time.
His remarkable long-range shooting during April gave Siskauskas the Euroleague's best accuracy on three-pointers, 51.8%, for the entire season. By coming back from injury to face down the season’s toughest defenses in the highest-pressure moments, Siskauskas proved in April that he is a key factor in the club's well-planned quest for a new Euroleague title.
Monday, April 16, 2007
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