Most people celebrate their birthdays only on the date they were born. Ante Tomic of FC Barcelona Regal started well before he turned 26 in mid-February and kept the party going until the last day of the month. By the time he had finished, it was clear to anyone watching that Tomic has entered his prime as a big man who can anchor a great team, making him Euroleague Basketball's clear choice as bwin MVP for February. Tomic was his team's top scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker as Barcelona put together the only 4-0 record during the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 last month. Barcelona defeated the two teams closest to it in the standings at home, and went on the road to win twice more. It did not trail on the scoreboard after halftime during any game all month and not after the first quarter in three of the four victories. Tomic was the man who was most in the middle for all four victories, giving Barcelona consistent and efficient inside dominance at both ends of the floor. He finished February having averaged 17 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block while making 28 of 41 two-point shots, or 68%. He ranked fourth in the Euroleague during the month in both scoring and performance index rating, 20.8 per game, despite playing fewer minutes than 36 other players. Most importantly, Tomic helped Barcelona take over first place in its Top 16 group and turn its attention now to clinching homecourt advantage in the playoffs. With a couple team records to boast, too, February couldn't have gone any better for Barcelona thanks to the superior play of the bwin MVP of the Month, Ante Tomic.
The bwin MVP of the Month honor is now in its ninth 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 February was based on the four Top 16 games that all teams played between January 31 and February 28. 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.
With a 4-1 record to start February, Barcelona's main chore was to target first place in Top 16 Group F. Then-undefeated group leader Montepaschi Siena visited Barcelona to open the month, and before long, the first target was reached. By the time Tomic's fourth basket supplied the game's first double-digit lead early in the second quarter, Barcelona was on its way to a commanding 85-66 lead that told everyone who was boss in Group F. Tomic dominated the proceedings, making 9 of 12 two-pointers for 20 points, while leading Barcelona with 5 rebounds. He posted two career-highs, a performance index rating of 28 and 5 assists, which were more than any Siena player in the game. Next, Barcelona visited Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv and Tomic faced the Euroleague's top-rated center all season, Shawn James. This time, Tomic bided his time and was unstoppable late in the game, scoring 14 of his team-high 18 points in the last 14 minutes. His free throws in the final minute ended a Maccabi rally as Barcelona won 77-82. Barcelona stayed on the road the next week and put together a team performance to remember, defeating Fenerbahce Ulker 60-99 in Istanbul. Tomic had 12 of his 14 points in a 19-50 first-half by Barcelona that set Euroleague records for the largest halftime lead ever on the road and the greatest halftime lead, home or away, in Top 16 history. Back home for the final game of February, Barcelona wanted revenge against Khimki Moscow Region, the only team it had lost to in the Top 16, and Tomic helped make it happen. Tomic scored 10 of his 16 points after halftime and led his team in rebounds for the third time in the month as Barcelona escaped with a 71-69 win. The victory gave Barcelona yet another Euroleague record: the most consecutive Top 16 home wins, 22, in competition history, a streak dating back almost seven years.
February proved what his Top 16 performance before that only hinted at: that Tomic has taken a step up to the elite in the longest, most competitive part of the season. Since the regular season, Tomic's scoring has jumped 76.7% (from 8.6 ppg. to 15.2) and his performance index rating 63.9% (from 12.5 to 20 per game). Though nine Top 16 games, he now ranks sixth in scoring (15.2 ppg), fourth in rebounding (6.3 rpg.), first in two-pointers made (6.4 per game) and fifth in two-point accuracy (69%), all despite 36 other Euroleague players getting more minutes. All of which means that Barcelona fans will have plenty to cheer Tomic for when he receives his bwin MVP for February award at an upcoming Turkish Airlines Euroleague home game.