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Real Madrid star Mario Hezonja scoops EuroLeague MVP prize for December

On a team that has been near-perfect all season, one player stood out just a little more in another flawless month for Real Madrid.

Mario Hezonja is Euroleague Basketball's choice as MVP for November after he led his team in average scoring and performance index rating during a month that left the defending Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champions with an unprecedented four-victory lead in the standings at midseason.

Hezonja recorded Real's highest PIR in three of the five games he played in December while registering two of the five double-doubles in his 126-game EuroLeague career.

Hezonja hit his seven-season high point

The MVP of the Month is named by Euroleague Basketball based on his and his team's performances. Last month's award covered the six games played by all teams between Tuesday, December 5 and Friday, December 29.

Hezonja, 28, becomes the MVP of the Month honoree for the first time in his seven seasons in the EuroLeague.

He's the seventh current Real player so honored, following Facundo Campazzo in November, making them the second pair of teammates to win it back-to-back, after Andrei Kirilenko and Nenad Krstic of CSKA Moscow in 2011.

Hezonja is the third Croatian to win the award and the first to do so in nine years, following Ante Tomic (three times) and Dario Saric (once). Real now has 14 such honorees all-time, second only to CSKA Moscow's 18.

Hezonja set the pace for Real in Greece

Hezonja started December, with 18 points, 10 rebounds and a PIR of 21 as Real rebounded strongly from its sole defeat of the season, at the last gasp in overtime a few days earlier, by winning a 2023 championship-game rematch with Olympiacos Piraeus on the road by 70-77.

Two nights later, Hezonja was at it again, leading Real with 19 points, 4 steals and 23 PIR in another road win, 78-90, at Panathinaikos AKTOR Athens.

After scoring 12 points to help beat FC Bayern Munich 88-73 at home a week later, Hezonja posted another gem – team-highs of 17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 19 PIR – as Real took a third away win in 14 days, 58-72 at Crvena Zvezda Meridianbet Belgrade.

Hezonja then contributed 14 points in a home showdown with Partizan Mozzart Bet Belgrade, reprising their unforgettable playoff series of last spring, which Real won 91-75.

Hezonja's impact was clear

Hezonja finished December having averaged 16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals and a PIR of 17.2 in 24 minutes per game while making 64.2% of his two-point shots and 91.7% of his free throws.

Real won five games – three away and two with playoff teams from last season – by an average of 12.8 points with Hezonja in the lineup. In those five games, Los Blancos trailed by more than 2 points after the middle of the second quarter only once.

When he was not available against last-place LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne in the final game of December, Real trailed until the fourth quarter and finally won 76-77. His impact on Real's perfect performance was clear even in his absence.

Now, Real Madrid fans will get to ring in the new year by celebrating one of their own, Mario Hezonja, as the last EuroLeague MVP of the Month for 2023.

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