By Eurohoops team/ [email protected]
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Bayern Munich had a ton of close games decided in the final minutes last season, and their direct opening clash of the 2021-22 EuroLeague campaign didn’t disappoint either. The Israeli hosts made a comeback and grabbed a 69-68 win thanks to an outstanding display by Scottie Wilbekin.
Wilbekin was fully focused from the very start and was enormous in crunch time, finishing with career-high 28 points on 8-13 shooting overall and 4-6 from three and igniting the atmosphere in the arena full of loud Maccabi fans. He added three assists and three steals for a total PIR of 32.
Losing was not an option
Wilbekin went through a number of heartbreaking losses last season and he was set on avoiding such fate this time around, especially in front of the packed arena.
“It feels great. I really didn’t want to lose the first game – with all the fans being here and the great start we had, probably because of the fans. I’m just happy we were able to pull through and get the win,” Scottie said after the game.
He was the only double-digit scorer for the winning team with John Dibartolomeo adding eight and James Nunally seven points. Jalen Reynolds did a great job defensively against his former team, making some very important stops.
The American-Turkish guard led Maccabi’s comeback from a nine-point deficit (64-53) in the fourth quarter with 13 points over the last five minutes, including three three-point plays when it was crucial.
“Every win is important, every game is important. We want to win them all. Just getting a good start in the EuroLeague, 1-0 at home, it definitely feels good. The defense got us the win. We just locked up in the end. On offense, Scottie was going, but that was about it. Nothing else was going, we couldn’t find our shots or hit them. But we locked in and started playing better defense, communicating more and that’s what got us the win,” Nunnally said, echoing EuroLeague’s newest motto “Every Game Matters”.
He ruined Bayern’s own shot at a comeback as they nullified the 17 points (35-18) they were behind in the second quarter, thanks to Deshaun Thomas and Corey Walden who finished with 15 and 14 points. Othello Hunter had 11.
Despite numerous turnovers and mistakes, Bayern still had a shot at the win but a messy offense, in which they almost lost the ball twice, ended with Darrun Hilliard missing the tough contested three-pointer.
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