Bryant led Maccabi when needed most

Feb 06, 2020 by Print
Bryant led Maccabi when needed most

Down 34-47 on its own floor to Khimki Moscow Region a minute before halftime, with top scorer Scottie Wilbekin joining a long injured list for the night, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv was staring down the barrell of its first three-game losing streak of the season.

It took less than 3 minutes after halftime for Turkish Airlines EuroLeague rookie Elijah Bryant to change that narrative. He scored 7 points in a 12-0 run to start the third quarter that gave Maccabi its first lead and set up a back-and-forth thriller the rest of the way.

The game's final 60 seconds would belong to Bryant, too. After Khimki tied it 77-77 with 1:05 to play, Bryant was the only player who scored the rest of the way, giving Maccabi an 80-77 victory that had looked far from possible half a game earlier.

Bryant scored 12 points in that second half, finishing with 21 for the night. Those were not just more than Wilbekin's average of 16.5, but more than Khimki's Alexey Shved, who ranks second in the competition and finished with 18 points. Bryant got a lot of help on Wednesday, especially from teenager Deni Avdija, who had career highs of 26 minutes, 11 points and 9 rebounds, plus dished 2 big assists in that game-changing run after halftime.

For Bryant, a second-year pro signed by Maccabi over the summer, this was already his ninth double-digit scoring game and highest total yet in the EuroLeague. He had drawn attention while averaging 10.7 points over 10 games between Rounds 8 and 18, while Maccabi was climbing the standings. But he had three others of 5 points or less in the previous four, including a poor shooting performance in Maccabi's first home loss of the season, to Real Madrid, last week.

"I've been putting extra work in all week," he said after the Khimki win. "I played a terrible game in our last game, and it was just a testament to keep on working and our coach having belief in his players. So it was fun."

With 10 of his points bracketing the start and finish of a second half that Maccabi won 44-30, Bryant stepped up not once, but twice.

Meeting the moment like that has a name: leadership. And Maccabi's fans can now count on another go-to player in times of need, of which many can be expected the EuroLeague.