MVP for April: Ramunas Siskauskas, CSKA Moscow

Apr 14, 2008 by Print
MVP for April: Ramunas Siskauskas, CSKA Moscow
In the 20 years of the Final Four era until now, only two players have won consecutive Euroleague titles with different teams. CSKA Moscow small forward Ramunas Siskauskas, who has been chosen April MVP by Euroleague Basketball, can become the third such player thanks to his own heroics when his team's survival was at stake in the Quarterfinal Playoffs. With their versatile small forward pointing the way, CSKA became just the second team in four seasons to advance to the Final Four despite losing the opening game in the best-of-three playoffs. With CSKA's season on the line, Siskauskas was unstoppable, averaging 22 points on 69.2% three-point shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.5 steals in two must-win victories against Olympiacos. Having won the Euroleague title last season with Panathinaikos, Siskaukas now has the chance now to match an accomplishment that is truly rare. In the Final Four era, from 1988 to 2007, only two players - both among the 50 top contributors in the first half-century of European club basketball - have won back-to-back Euroleague titles with different teams. Dejan Bodiroga did so with Panathinaikos in 2002 and Barcelona in 2003, while his teammate for the second of those trophies, Sarunas Jasikevicius, won again in 2004 with Maccabi. Ramunas Siskauskas, the MVP for April, can now become the third to do so at the Final Four in Madrid starting May 2.

Euroleague Basketball's MVP of the Month honor is in its fourth 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 during the previous month. The award for April was decided considering three Quarterfinal Playoff games played by eight teams during that month.

After having seen his old team and defending champion Panathinaikos eliminated in the Top 16, Siskauskas and CSKA started April by suffering a rare home loss to Olympiacos that snapped the team's 27-game Euroleague winning streak in Moscow. Siskauskas scored 12 points and went a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line in that game, but otherwise struggled with his normally accurate shot. A week later in Athens, CSKA was again on the ropes, down 12 points after one quarter to Olympiacos, when the series started to turn. Siskauskas scored 5 points in the second quarter as CSKA surged into the lead and then came out after halftime and pumped in 9 more, including back-to-back triples, that suddenly put the visitors up 40-55 on the way to a double-digit victory. Siskauskas finished with 20 points in just 21 minutes despite not getting to the foul line, having made 4 of 4 two-pointers and 4 of 7 triples. Back in Moscow for Game 3, he was even hotter. His 5-for-6 three-point, 3-for-5 two-point and 3-for-3 free-throw shooting never gave Olympiacos a chance to think of an upset. When Siskauskas was done leading all scorers for both teams in those two do-or-die games, CSKA was headed for its sixth consecutive Final Four. Over the entire month of April, Siskauskas averaged 18.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals. He also made 61.5% of his two-pointers (8 for 14), 62.5% of his threes (10 for 16) and all 10 free throws he took.

Although its month started in the worst possible way, CSKA saved chance to win a second Euroleague title in three seasons with a team effort in which Siskauskas stood tall. His willingness to create and take clutch shots, and his overall efficiency, often makes Siskauskas seem a mistake-free player. No one is perfect, but Siskauskas was nearly so in the month when his new team needed him most, making him an appropriate choice as MVP for April.