Fenerbahce Istanbul made history in April as the only team ever to sweep a best-of-five Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs series that it had started without home-court advantage. The driving force behind that first-time accomplishment after 36 such series over nine seasons was 24-year-old guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, Euroleague Basketball's choice as MVP for April.
Bogdanovic, who had been sidelined for nearly half of the regular season by injury, more than made up for lost time in April. He completely dominated Fenerbahce's opening two road wins in an eventual 3-0 sweep of Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, becoming the first player ever to claim MVP honors for both Game 1 and Game 2 of the playoffs. By the end of the series, Bogdanovic had averaged 19.3 points, second most in the playoffs, and had connected on 12 of 20 three-point shots (60%). Those 4 three-pointers per game matched the highest average in EuroLeague playoffs history. Bogdanovic also tied for third among playoff rebounders with 7 per game, the second-highest average ever for a guard. To that he added 4 assists, 1 steal and 1.3 blocks per game. It all added up to an average performance index rating of 26, the second-best recorded in a best-of-five playoff, while his PIR total of 78 set a new record for any series that ended in three games. Add to his playoffs prowess team highs of 15 points and 4 steals in an overtime win to start April and finish the regular season, and it's clear that one player in particular performed almost perfectly in April: Bogdan Bogdanovic.
The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 13th season. Although statistics and performance index 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. The award for April was based on Round 30 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season and the best-of-five playoffs series played during the month.
When April dawned, Fenerbahce has lost four of its previous five games and needed to regroup for the playoffs. The process started with a 68-65 overtime victory against FC Barcelona Lassa in which Bogdanovic scored Fenerbahce's last 5 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-tying basket with 5 seconds left, and its first 7 points in overtime, as well. However, Fenerbahce had already lost home-court advantage in the playoffs, and history showed that 78% of previous best-of-five series were won by the Game 1 hosts. Moreover, Panathinaikos had a 14-1 record at Olympic Sports Center Athens in the regular season. Bogdanovic arrived to the Greek capital ready to shine, however. In the opener, he produced an overwhelming performance with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks and 6 fouls drawn to lead Fenerbahce to a come-from-behind 58-71 win. His performance index rating of 35, besides marking a personal high, matched the highest in a non-overtime playoffs game this decade. And then, in Game 2, he did it again, leading Fenerbahce to a 75-80 victory with 25 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. With another PIR of 35, Bogdanovic's total of 70 was the best ever by any player in the first two games of a best-of-five series or by a road player in a full series, even when others played three games away. In Game 3, he added 10 points and 8 boards as Fenerbahce rolled to a 79-61 victory and a spot in the Final Four. By the end of the series, Bogdanovic had set personal single-game career-highs in blocks (3), rebounds (8) and performance index ranking (35, twice).
Fenerbahce finished April having won nine consecutive playoff games over three seasons, a record that has the fingerprints of Bogdanovic all over it. Over four games last month in which Fenerbahce was undefeated, he averaged 18.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1 block. He did so with great shooting accuracy, too, making 13 of 22 two-pointers (59.1%) and shooting 15 for 27 (55.5%) from downtown. This April MVP award is the first monthly honor for Bogdanovic, who was won the EuroLeague Rising Star Trophy for both the 2013-14 and the 2014-15 seasons. Bogdanovic now hopes to keep his momentum going as Fenerbahce challenges for the EuroLeague crown at home in Istanbul from May 19 to 21 at the 2017 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four!