MVP for March: Nick Calathes, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens

Apr 01, 2019 by Print

Nick Calathes has led Panathinaikos OPAP Athens to a near-perfect March, winning four games and losing one at the buzzer while he played like a born leader all month long. For his role in guiding Panathinaikos to the brink of the playoffs, Calathes is Euroleague Basketball's choice as MVP for March. Although he is best known as the EuroLeague's runaway assists leader, Calathes did a lot of everything last month to make sure his team bounced back from a difficult situation. Not only did Panathinaikos get back in the playoffs race during March, but the Greens now holds their destiny in their own hands, because a home win against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica on Thursday will guarantee the Greek powerhouse a berth in the post-season. Calathes averaged 14.6 points, 6 rebounds and an incredible 10.2 assists over five games in March, adding up to a league-high PIR of 21.8 per game. He also rescued victory from the jaws of defeat with a buzzer-beating three-pointer to beat CSKA Moscow on the road. Calathes finished with double-doubles in three of his team's four victories last month, and missed another by a single assist. His leadership, game-winning instincts and overwhelming numbers make Calathes a solid choice as the MVP for March.

The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 15th 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 covered the five regular season games that all teams played between March 7 and March 29.

Panathinaikos ranked 11th overall with an 11-13 record in early March, right before visiting Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul in Round 25. Calathes had a double-double -- 10 points, 11 assists -- in less than 25 minutes to lead his team to a convincing 67-91 victory. Panathinaikos carried a three-game winning streak into its road challenge against mighty CSKA in the Russian capital. Once again, Calathes had a really solid game, 11 points and 9 assists, but his big moment came in crunch time. With CSKA up 77-75, Calathes buried a catch-and-shoot three-pointer with time expiring to end his team's nine-game losing streak against CSKA in Moscow that had lasted since December of 2010. After three consecutive road wins, Panathinaikos returned to Athens to face KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz and played a near-perfect first half, leading 48-27 at the break. The Greens ended up taking a narrow 72-70 victory behind 11 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds from Calathes. In Round 28, Panathinaikos visited a direct opponent in the playoffs race, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan. Calathes played one of the best games of his career, finishing with 27 points, 14 assists and 8 rebounds in pacing Panathinaikos to a pivotal 83-95 win. His PIR of 39 made him the MVP for Round 28 and his 12 two-pointers made were his career high. Calathes had another solid game against Real Madrid -- 14 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists -- but a last-second circus shot by Rudy Fernandez allowed Los Blancos to stop the Greens' winning streak.

At the end of the month, Panathinaikos stood seventh in the standings with a 15-14 record, knowing that a home win in Round 30 will guarantee its presence in the next phase. After setting records and being voted to the All-EuroLeague First Team last season, Calathes by the end of March had become the first player to dish 250 assists in a season. He needs just 31 more assists to become the seventh player to reach 1,000 in the competition, too. Calathes is now averaging 12.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 1.7 steals in 29 EuroLeague games this season, his seventh in the competition, all of them with Panathinaikos. Calathes helped the Greens win their last EuroLeague title, in 2011. This is his second monthly MVP honor, after he won in November of 2017. Calathes also won the 2012-13 7DAYS EuroCup title with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, earning that competition's full-season MVP honor. Calathes, the Panathinaikos team captain, will receive his award at an upcoming home game.