Just a month ago, CSKA Moscow sat in 10th place in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with a 3-3 record and what looked like a long road to its usual position at or near the top of the standings. That road was made short, though, by the inspired play since then of unstoppable guard Mike James, who is Euroleague Basketball’s choice as MVP for November.
With James going from strength to strength as CSKA mowed down five consecutive opponents, the Russian giants are suddenly tied for first place on victories and looking very much like the same juggernaut that has reached 16 out of the last 17 Final Fours. Despite missing one round, James outscored everybody in the EuroLeague in November, ending the month with a three-game flurry of point production that culminated in a memorable, game-winning, four-point play. With that, James not only completed his month-long rise from fourth to first place in the top-scorer race, but also gave CSKA bragging rights as the only perfect EuroLeague team in November.
The MVP of the Month honor is now in its 17th 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 during the month in question.
James began November with a modest 10 points and 5 assists as CSKA beat hosts Panathinaikos OPAP Athens 83-89 in the first of what would become three road wins for the month. After sitting out an 89-86 home win against TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, James returned for CSKA’s 48-hour road swing against two of the top five teams in the standings at the time. CSKA broke its tie in the standings with Zalgiris Kaunas as James had 27 points and 5 assists in a 78-87 road win, outdueling October MVP Marius Grigonis. He scored 22 points in the second half, including the game’s final 8 after Zalgiris rallied from a double-digit deficit to within 78-79 within 1:10 to play.
James became the MVP of the Week thanks to his 32 performance index rating, the best among winning players during a double-round. Barely two days later and 1,500 kilometers away, James picked up where he left off, drilling 25 points on the court of then co-leader FC Bayern Munich to pace an 81-89 CSKA victory. In each of those wins, James beat buzzers to end quarters, but he saved his best for November’s finale, a classic showdown with Real Madrid in the Russian capital. After Real took a 70-71 lead with 22 seconds left, James won the game with an extraordinary second-chance triple falling out of bounds in the corner with 2.5 seconds left. He was fouled and converted the free throw for a four-point play that completed CSKA’s perfect month with a 74-75 victory. James finished with 28 points, marking the third consecutive round in which he led all EuroLeague players in scoring, a true rarity.
This marks the second time in his seven-season EuroLeague career that James has been named player of the month, after he did so with AX Armani Exchange Milan in February of 2019. This time, James compiled 22.5 points, 3.3 assists and a 20.8 PIR over the four games he helped CSKA win in November. He now leads all EuroLeague scorers with 19.5 points per game, up from 17.5 at the start of the month. And he ranks fourth with an PIR of 18.3 per game.