The road back from a torn ACL for a basketball player is not easy. It requires a tremendous amount of hard work and rehab. Some players never quite make it back to what they were before. Yet others come back better than ever. In CSKA Moscow's victory over Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv, Will Clyburn showed that he is back and aiming to be part of the latter category.
The 2019 Final Four MVP, at his previous best Clyburn was a do-it-all forward. He combined elite athleticism with great outside shooting. He possessed great basketball smarts and the tenacity to be a shut-down defender at four different positions. And he was never afraid of big moments.
All of that was on display on Thursday in Moscow.
Athleticism? Watch how he picks the pocket of Maccabi point guard Chris Jones, rumbles down the floor and fearlessly takes off for a mighty dunk – and foul – over Dragan Bender.
Clyburn finished the game with 19 points, including 2-of-4 shooting from behind the arc. He was 9 for 9 from the free-throw line and also blocked 2 shots. His clutch gene was on display with 14 fourth-quarter points.
When Scottie Wilbekin heated up for Maccabi early in the fourth quarter to make it 48-52, Clyburn was there to trade shots with him. Clyburn then stepped aside to let Mike James dominate, but when it was time for a closer, Clyburn was there. He made an important three-pointer with 38 seconds remaining and – with Maccabi desperately trying to get back in the game – sank 4 free throws down the stretch to ice the game. What's more, he made things difficult on the Maccabi scorers with blocks of both Wilbekin and Tyler Dorsey on three-point attempts.
It was not a perfect game for Clyburn. His missed dunk attempt in the fourth quarter showed that Clyburn's legs may not be all the way back. But if that's the case, the rest of Europe had better beware of how good Clyburn will be when he gets that extra bit back!