James Nunnally is well established as a veteran of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Now in his fifth season in the competition following spells with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul – including an important role in the 2017 title triumph – and AX Armani Exchange Milan, the 31-year-old forward has played more EuroLeague games (86) than all but two of his Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv teammates who took the floor for Thursday’s Round 4 trip to LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne.
Only Scottie Wilbekin (144) and Derrick Williams (95) have made more appearances in the competition and considering that experience, it is fair for Maccabi to expect Nunnally to step forward into a leadership role this season.
On Thursday, he more than fulfilled that expectation by delivering a decisive performance to secure Maccabi’s first road win of the season, 85-93, while handing ASVEL its first loss of the campaign. Nunnally poured in 25 points, just 1 short of his EuroLeague personal best, by making all 6 of his two-point attempts and adding 4-of-7 strikes from long-range, while also providing 2 rebounds and 3 assists.
Another key number from Thursday’s win was that Nunnally spent 30 minutes and 54 seconds on the floor, more than anyone else in the game except Wilbekin, showing that he has already fully earned the trust of Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos. This was actually already evident: Nunnally has played at least 29:25 in all four games so far this season, spending more total time on the court than any other Maccabi player – eclipsing Wilbekin by just over 4 minutes.
In fact, only Lorenzo Brown of UNICS Kazan (131:12) and Rokas Giedraitis of Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz (130:19) have been granted more playing time than Nunnally (123:52) through the opening four games of the season, so it is abundantly clear that he is already an extremely important performer for Maccabi.
And this was an extremely important game for Maccabi. On the back of disappointing losses to Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and AX Armani Exchange Milan, Maccabi knew that another dispiriting defeat would pile on the pressure ahead of a run of three successive home games before the end of the month.
Instead, grabbing a first road win of the campaign by defeating a previously unbeaten and confident host, Maccabi was able to restore positive vibes and can now look forward to its extended homecoming with confidence. And although it was a solid team performance against ASVEL, the standout performer was undoubtedly Nunnally – who also very much looks like becoming the new leader of the pack.