Maximum effect in a minimum amount of time is the definition of efficiency on the basketball court. Add to that great timing in crucial games and it could also define the difference that center Rasho Nesterovic of Olympiacos Pireaus, Euroleague Basketball's choice as the Sportingbet MVP for February, made for his team over the second half of the Top 16. After a one-week break in the phase, the Reds faced back-to-back road games against the teams directly above and below them in their group. But in both games, they were behind heading into the final quarter. Nesterovic helped solve each of those dilemmas. He scored 10 points in the final quarter - including a memorable trio of tip-ins - to hand Power Electronics Valencia its only home defeat in three months. The next week, Nesterovic did it again, reeling off 9 fourth-quarter points against Fenerbahce Ulker, which was unbeaten in the Top 16 until then. That victory clinched first place for Olympiacos in the Top 16's most volatile group. To finish up the phase, he led the Reds to a final Top 16 win at home over Zalgiris as that game’s best scorer. The bottom line: Olympiacos showed the fortitude and veteran know-how to go 3-0 in the second half of the Top 16. Nesterovic had plenty to do with that success at both ends of the floor as he was the Euroleague's second-best scorer and top shot-blocker over those three games, making him a more-than-deserving Sportingbet MVP for the Month of February.
The Sportingbet MVP of the Month award now is in its seventh season. Although statistics and performance 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 upon the two Top 16 games played during that month and another played on March 3. Sportingbet, a Euroleague Basketball partner, 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 Sportingbet's sponsorship communicate its conviction to be the best betting brand in European basketball.
Olympiacos returned from the Top 16 break facing a challenge to its aspiration of winning Group H. The Reds, with a 2-1 record, sat in second place, behind undefeated Fenerbahce Ulker and just a victory ahead of Power Electronics Valencia. And they had to play both those teams away. Valencia had not lost a Euroleague home game since Svetislav Pesic took over as head coach almost three months earlier. Nesterovic recorded 3 blocks in the game's first 18 minutes as Olympiacos took a 27-32 lead. Valencia rallied and led 59-53 early in the final quarter, however. Nesterovic re-entered the game then and soon turned around the scoreboard with a series of spectacular put-backs of his teammates' misses - one each in minute 36, 37 and 38 - giving Olympiacos in the lead for good on its way to a 79-85 victory. Nesterovic finished with 16 points, went 7-for-8 shooting two-pointers, matched the game-high of 6 rebounds, and posted the highest performance index rating, 22, all in just 23 minutes' work. A week later, on the road against Fenerbahce Ulker, the Reds had a score to settle, namely their 14-point home loss when the teams first met in the Top 16's opening week. Again, Olympiacos was in trouble, trailing 49-37 midway through the third quarter. This time, Nesterovic helped take the rally his teammates had started and, with his 9 points in the final quarter, turn it into a runaway 65-80 victory that clinched first-place in the group. He had 16 points again on 7-for-9 shooting to go with games-highs of 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and a 22 index rating. By the time the Reds finished up the Top 16 with a 78-64 home win over Zalgiris, with Nesterovic again posting game-highs of 20 points and 3 blocks, his impact could not have been clearer. He finished the three most important games of the season so far having averaged 17.3 points on 75% two-point shooting (75%), plus 6.3 rebounds and 3 blocks per game.
In addition to efficiency, Nesterovic showed remarkable consistency, too. He played almost the exact same time, between 23:31 and 23:36, while scoring between 16 and 20 points and blocking 3 shots in all three games. His presence on defense was such that, in the key games against Valencia and FB Ulker, no opposing big men reached double digits in scoring. On offense, thanks to all his tip-ins, Nesterovic produced many of his points on hustle alone. That combination of his efficiency, consistency and hustle will give Olympiacos fans plenty to cheer him about when Nesterovic receives his monthly MVP award at an upcoming home game during the Playoffs.