Bryant shines as Maccabi ends losing streak
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv celebrated a much-needed 81-76 victory over visiting Crvena Zvezda at Menora Mivtachim Arena on Thursday night to snap a three-game losing streak and improve its record to 4-8, the same Crvena dropped to. The Israeli champs built a double-digit advantage, 52-39, early in the third quarter, but the visitors found an answer in former Maccabi player Johnny O’Bryant and Jordan Loyd to rally and take a slim lead, 64-66. Then Elijah Bryant came to the rescue and put on a terrific offensive show by scoring 14 points in the last 6 minutes -including 3 three-pointers and a three-point play- to hold off Zvezda. Scottie Wilbekin led all scorers with 23 points on 4-of-7 three-point shooting, while Othello Hunter posted a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds and Bryant contributed 18 points and 6 boards for the winners. Loyd paced the visitors with 24 points, Dejan Davidovac contributed 14 - on 10-of-10 shooting from the line - and O’Bryant tallied 13 points and 8 rebounds in defeat.
Both teams exchanged blows while looking for high-tempo basketball in the early going. Zizic and Wilbekin led the way for the hosts, as the visitors found a more balanced offense and involved six different players scoring to build a 9-16 lead after 5 minutes. Hunter came up big off the bench with 6 points in just 1 minute and 22 seconds to trim the deficit to 15-16. Soon he tied it at 18-18 from the line. A buzzer-beating three by Wilbekin made it 23-20 at the end of the first quarter. Loyd cut it to 23-22, but the visitors were held scoreless for 4 minutes after that and allowed Maccabi to amass a 29-22 advantage. The pace slowed down as the defenses increased their efficiency, with the visitors benefitting the most from it to come within 33-29 behind Davidovac's accuracy from the line. Jones and Wilbekin soon replied from the perimeter, but the visitors continued to add free throws and made it 38-35. Jones and Loyd swapped threes to end the first half with Maccabi ahead 41-38.
Wilbekin showed off after the break with a deep three, a couple of free throws and a floater to boost the lead to double digits, 48-38. Jones joined the party with a couple of steals and a pair of assists to make it 52-39. The visitors were unable to convert a single field goal until O’Bryant hit a pull-up jumper with less than 5 minutes to go in the quarter. But Zvezda didn’t give up, as Lloyd joined O’Bryant on offense with back-to-back threes to cap a 4-16 run that brought the visitors within 56-55 at the end of the third quarter. Loyd didn’t stop there, as he buried another to put Zvezda in front 56-58 to open the fourth quarter. Wilbekin and Caloiaro responded also from behind the arc, but Davidovac tied it again and Loyd took charge to make it 64-66 with 6 minutes to go. Bryant showed up with a three-point play right before both sides started trading leads and followed with consecutive three-pointers to put Maccabi in front 75-70. Neither team managed to score in the following 2 minutes until a technical foul on Jones allowed the visitors to reduce it to 75-71 and retain possession entering the last minute. O’Bryant missed a long jumper and Wilbekin found Bryant in the corner for his third consecutive three-pointer that sealed the win for the home team.
Another nerve-breaking end
Maccabi had dropped three straight games with the last two coming by a total of 3 points. But, this time, Maccabi managed to cool its nerves when Crvena Zvezda erased a 13-point deficit and entered the last 5 minutes leading 69-70. The hosts made the right plays on offense and held Jordan Loyd to just 2 points in that span to get back on the winning path.
Even though Scottie Wilbekin and Othello Hunter recorded higher PIRs, Elijah Bryant became the hero of the night with an incredible and timely offensive performance in the last quarter. He started with a three-point play to get Maccabi back in front 67-66, then buried 3 consecutive three-pointers to build a definitive 78-71 home lead with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Crvena Zvezda tried to slow down Maccabi with strong defense and a low tempo, but failed when it came down to locking up the boards. The hosts grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, which turned into 17 second-chance points that helped them to make up for their 18 turnovers.
Good to see you again
After more than a year, Maccabi forward Omri Casspi returned to Euroleague action on this night. In his first European game since November 2019, Casspi played 9:41 to score 4 points and block one shot.
In Round 13 next week Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv will travel to Spain to meet TD Systems Baskonia on Thursday, December 10, while Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade will return home to host Olympiacos Piraeus the same day.
Thursday, December 3, 2020