Keenan Evans was all smiles after Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv extended its winning streak to five games on Friday night. The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague rookie had just helped his team triumph as he played his best game thus far this season.
Evans collected 14 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists and an index rating of 22 in Maccabi’s 69-87 road win over Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. All four of those statistics were EuroLeague career highs for the 25-year-old guard.
"The sky’s the limit. If we stay together and we stay level-headed and not get too high from wins, who knows? We just hope we can keep running them off," Evans said after the game.
If Evans can have more games like that, Maccabi fans could expect even more victories to mount up. And Evans’ showing was particularly needed on this occasion as the team’s leading scorer and overall floor general Scottie Wilbekin had to leave the game with a sprained ankle midway through the second quarter and did not return.
Evans did an admirable job as he committed just 1 turnover in nearly 31 minutes of action, while scoring his 14 points on just 10 shots and three free throws.
The Texas native is certainly starting to find his way in the EuroLeague in his rookie season in the competition. Coming into the game against Baskonia on Friday night, Evans had twice scored 13 points - at LDLC ASVEL Villeuerbanne in Round 4 and at home versus Zalgiris Kaunas in Round 6. Through eight games, Evans is now averaging 8.3 points while shooting 38.9% on three-pointers to go with 2.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists to 0.6 turnovers and 0.8 steals in 23 minutes a game.
Evans played last season for Israeli side Hapoel Haifa after debuting in Europe in 2019-20 with Igokea Aleksandrovac in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is getting better all the time, and showed against Baskonia that he can help a big team in big moments: the hosts reeled off a 13-0 run with four three-pointers to pull ahead 27-21 in the second quarter, but then Evans assisted on a James Nunnally three-pointer and added a triple of his own in a 0-14 surge for a 27-35 cushion.
Later, the 25 year-old picked up a three-point play and an assist in an important 2-10 spurt in the third quarter to push the gap to 44-56. And then he tallied a two-pointer and dished out three assists in a decisive 2-13 run in the fourth quarter for a 58-78 lead to lock up the win.
Evans may be playing in an international competition for the first time in his career but he certainly doesn’t seem like a wide-eyed rookie. Instead, he is playing with the control needed to help a team win big games on the road when the side’s leader is out injured.
With Evans playing like this, the sky for Maccabi certainly is the limit.