In what is already being called one of the greatest playoff series in basketball history, there was no doubt what player proved the difference for the winners. Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos made a mission of keeping alive his team's Turkish Airlines Euroleague title defense, and at the very end of five incredible games, he succeeded. For his outstanding effort in five games over 17 nights, Euroleague Basketball has chosen Diamantidis of as the March/April bwin MVP of the month. This season's playoffs represented the biggest opportunity after three failed attempts over the last decade for Panathinaikos to reach a Final Four as the defending champion. To do so, however, the Greens had to overcome their most successful opponent this century, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv. From the opening tip of Game 1 to the last seconds of Game 5, Diamantidis did remarkable things - even for a reigning Euroleague MVP and two-time Final Four MVP. With the top individual statistical performance in the opening games of all four series, Diamantidis set the pace for the Greens in a blowout victory. And in the closing seconds of Game 5, with the go-ahead free throw and subsequent steal that decided the series, he fulfilled the mission. Along the way, he set one official record and a pair of fascinating firsts: never before had a winning player scored in double digits through all games in a best-of-five Euroleague playoff series; and never before had one player led his team in nine different statistical categories during the playoffs. It all added up to an amazing playoffs round that called for another award: Dimitris Diamantidis as bwin MVP of the month.
The bwin MVP of the Month honor is now in its eighth 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 March and April was decided based on the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs that eight teams played between Tuesday, March 20 and Thursday, April 5, the final date of the round. Euroleague Basketball partner bwin is the sponsor of the MVP of the Month award. Just as the best Euroleague player each month combines performance and leadership for success, so does bwin's sponsorship communicate its conviction to be the best betting brand in European basketball.
Diamantidis opened Game 1 of the playoffs with a blocked shot, a telling play in terms of his intentions to do everything possible to win. By the end of the first quarter he had 5 assists and 8 points of his own as Panathinaikos quickly pulled away to a blowout victory. Diamantidis posted a 31 performance index rating in 21 minutes on the floor, the second-highest per-minute rating ever in a playoff game, and earned the bwin MVP for that round of the playoffs. In Game 2, despite his 12 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks, Diamantidis and Panathinaikos lost in overtime to Maccabi. In Game 3, Diamantidis scored 7 of his 10 points in the final quarter, including a last-minute put-back to get Panathinaikos within 63-62, but Maccabi hung on for the victory. Down 2-1 in the series and facing Game 4 in Tel Aviv, Panathinaikos had its back to the wall. Diamantidis was on the floor for 36 minutes orchestrating a masterful 78-69 victory. He hit the go-ahead free throws among 6 for 8 accuracy from the foul line in the final 3 minutes to assure the victory and a trip home for the series tie-breaker. In the first Game 5 of his Euroleague career, Diamantidis lifted his legend to new heights. His 8 points in 3 minutes gave Panathinaikos its first break in the second quarter on the way to a 40-31 halftime lead. But even when his three-pointer after the break made it 46-34, the game was far from over. Maccabi scored the next 12 points to tie, the first of two such comebacks for the visitors in the game. The second one happened with Panathinaikos ahead 73-61 on a three-pointer by Diamantidis with 5 minutes left . This time, as Maccabi rallied, Diamantidis was the only Panathinaikos scorer for the game's last 80 seconds, 7 points that included the go-ahead free throw with 5 seconds on the clock. But just as he started the series with a big defensive play, so Diamantidis ended it, making a steal on Maccabi's last possession, when any shot could have ended the season for Panathinaikos. He finished Game 5 with his all-time high performance index rating, 34, after 186 previous Euroleague games. His 25 points were the second-most scored in his Euroleague career. And his 15 free throws made broke the single-game record for any Euroleague game this century beyond the regular season. For the second time in the series, he was bwin MVP of the night.
Diamantidis finished the series with remarkable numbers: 14.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists. 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game, shooting 50% on two-pointers, 39.3% on threes and 81.8% at the foul line. Even more amazing, as a 1.96-meter guard, Diamantidis ranked among the best five players on all eight playoff teams in nine categories: scoring, defensive rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, free throws made, free throws attempted, fouls drawn and overall performance index rating. And all was needed, from the first second of the playoffs to the last, to send Panathinaikos back to the Final Four, where Diamantidis will receive his bwin MVP of the month award.