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March/April MVP: Erazem Lorbek, CSKA Moscow
A former Euroleague Rising Star Trophy winner, all grown up now at age 25, has done the seemingly impossible during March and April - made defending champion CSKA Moscow look even stronger. While CSKA was qualifying for its record seventh consecutive Final Four over the last two months, big man Erazem Lorbek was solidifying his role as the newest major contributor for the Russian powerhouse. During the five victories in March and April with which CSKA reached and then swept through the playoffs, Lorbek led the champs in scoring, index rating or both in every game except one. For his outsized role in keeping CSKA's back-to-back title hopes very much alive, Lorbek is Euroleague Basketball's choice as March/April MVP. Lorbek's emerging dominance actually began one game earlier, right after CSKA had suffered its worst Euroleague defeat in 10 years. By the time the playoffs were finished, CSKA had not lost again, while Lorbek had become the team's top scorer and rebounder for the entire season heading into the Final Four, making him a logical choice for March/April MVP.
Euroleague Basketball's MVP of the Month honor is in its fifth 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 performances. The award for March and April was decided considering the two Top 16 games and the Quarterfinal Playoff games played during that span.
Lorbek started the Top 16 slowly, averaging just 8 points in the first three games. By the time March rolled around, however, Lorbek had warmed to the task. He dominated a 77-60 home win over Fenerbahce Ulker in Top 16 Week 5, scoring 11 first-quarter points on the way to a team-high18 in as many minutes as CSKA clinched its playoff berth. He turned in another solid performance the next week, scoring 15 points in a 63-73 win at Cibona as CSKA finished the Top 16 with a 5-1 record. In the playoffs, Lorbek took his game to an even higher level. In Game 1 of the best-of-five series against high-flying Partizan Belgrade, Lorbek had 10 of CSKA's first 19 points and finished with a floor-high 16 despite a number of defensive records set in the game. He was even better in Game 2, blasting off for 21 points on 5-for-7 two-point and 1-for-2 three-point shooting plus 7 rebounds as CSKA won 77-50 and his career-high 33 performance index rating earned Lorbek that week’s MVP honor. By Game 3, Partizan had focused its defense on Lorbek, limiting him to 10 points, so he led CSKA that night just in rebounds and his career-high of 4 assists. The 56-67 victory meant a 3-0 series sweep and sent CSKA back to the Final Four.
All told in the five games he played during March and April, Lorbek averaged 16 points on 61.9% two-point shooting, 5 rebounds and 5.6 fouls drawn as CSKA went undefeated and soared to the Final Four. Beyond the statistics, Lorbek became the key to opening up the CSKA attack as the club routinely ran its offense through him, whether to score himself or open up opportunities for his teammates. Lorbek's importance to the champs was summed up in one fact - 37 minutes, 19 seconds played in Game 1 of the playoffs, more time than any other CSKA player has been on the floor all season. Lorbek will look to shine next in the bright lights of the o2 World in Berlin at the 2009 Final Four, where he will receive his monthly MVP award.
Monday, April 13, 2009
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February MVP: Novica Velickovic, Partizan Belgrade
January MVP: Igor Rakocevic, Tau Ceramica
December MVP: Lior Eliyahu, Maccabi Electra
November MVP: Sani Becirovic, Lottomatica Roma
October MVP: Ersan Ilyasova, Regal FC Barcelona
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