What a month it was for Zalgiris Kaunas big man Brandon Davies.
First, in the regular season finale, he had what was his finest Turkish Airlines EuroLeague performance until then. Next, before the playoffs started, he committed his future to Zalgiris by signing a contract extension through 2020.
Then, Davies simply erupted in the playoffs to lead Zalgiris to a 3-1 series win over Olympiacos Piraeus and the club’s first Final Four berth this century. For his dominance in helping Zalgiris march to the Final Four despite lacking home-court advantage and experience in the playoffs, Euroleague Basketball is pleased to announce that Davies is the competition’s MVP for April. Playing against only Olympiacos in April – in the regular season finale and four playoff games – Davies lifted his game to new heights. Incredibly, the rookie center posted nine season highs as Zalgiris won four of those five games.
Davies averaged a performance index rating of 20.6 in April, fourth-best in the competition, while his 17.2 points per game ranked sixth among all EuroLeague players. He also led the EuroLeague Playoffs with 1.3 blocked shots per game. Indeed, when April was over, Davis had more than doubled his scoring and quadrupled his blocks averages as compared to his first 29 games, and in so doing, assured Zalgiris could reach its historic Final Four return.
The 2017-18 season was already going to be Zalgiris’s finest in the EuroLeague in some time. Entering April, it had secured its first playoff berth since that phase became a fixture in the competition in 2005. To get the month started, Davies showed his excellent form in an overtime win at Olympiacos in Round 30 with game-highs of 18 points and 4 steals plus 6 rebounds and 1 block. His PIR of 24 was his personal high until then.
That victory gave Zalgiris an 18-12 record, sixth place in the regular season, and a date with Olympiacos in the playoffs. Zalgiris would need to be firing on all cylinders, however, to be able to take down last season’s EuroLeague runner-up in a best-of-five series without the benefit of home-court advantage.
In Davies, Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius found a cylinder in overdrive as soon as the opening tip went up in Game 1. In an unforgettable performance, Davies made his presence felt immediately with a putback for the first basket of the series and would continue to hound the Reds for season-highs of 21 points, 8 rebounds – including 6 on the offensive end – and 3 blocked shots. Not only did he set a new PIR high of 26, but Davies was an energetic factor at both ends of the floor late in the game, when his put-back and blocked shot helped Zalgiris force overtime.
In the extra period, his basket-plus-free throw put a stunning victory on ice. In Game 2, just 48 hours later, Davies posted 20 points in 24 minutes, although the Reds pulled away in the fourth quarter to win and even the series at 1-1. Game 3 was a moment basketball fans had long awaited in Kaunas and Davies gave them all they were hoping for and more. The big man continued his dominant form with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting to help Zalgiris to an 80-60 romp and the series lead. In the clincher, Davies was less of a factor offensively, though he still scored 9 points without missing from the field. His presence was felt on defence and on the boards, as well, as Zalgiris stormed to a 101-91 victory.
For the playoffs, Davies ranked fourth overall, second among series winners, and first among big men in PIR with 19.8 per game. He led all players in blocks (1.3 bpg.), was sixth in scoring (17.0 ppg.), seventh in offensive rebounding (2.3 orpg.) and tied for fifth in steals (1.3 spg.). Davies also made the third-most free throws (20) in the playoffs. When factoring in his monster Round 30 performance, Davies averaged 17.2 points on 65.1% field goal shooting and 85.7% from the free throw line, 4.4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks for an average performance index rating of 20.6 in April, while his team went 4-1.