“I have a lot of affection for Victor Wembanyama… but I won't have any tonight,” laughed Rudy Gobert before facing “Wemby” and the Spurs on Friday at the Frost Bank Center. And this three years after meeting him on the boards of Nanterre, for “fun”. A simple workout. Images that went around the world (see below). “It’s a pleasure to be able to face him, finally. Since this 2 against 2 in Nanterre, we have evolved a lot, especially him,” smiled the Minnesota pivot, who sees himself as a “protector” and “mentor” for the 19-year-old prodigy. Like the first duel between the two French interiors, which ended with two points near the circle for Gobert, physically, and Wembanyama on the buttocks, we quickly understood that there would be no gifts. In the end, it was the T-Wolves who upheld the hierarchy (110-117) to gain a fifth consecutive victory, their first on the road. A match that also counted for the NBA Cup. Fourth loss in a row for the Texans, who will host Miami on Sunday.
First lesson to learn when you are French: the Blues racket could quickly become impassable with the Gobert/“Wemby” doublet. Can’t wait for the Paris Olympics (July 26-August 11, 2024)! Mainly concerned with the shadows and leaving the light to Karl Anthony Towns (29 pts, 12 rebounds) and Anthony Edwards (28 pts), Rudy Gobert finished with 11 points at 5/10 on shots, 10 rebounds, 1 pass and 1 interception Friday. Not spared by Madison Square Garden during his last outing, Victor Wembanyama responded present and produced a very clean, consistent and accomplished copy, despite some very understandable youthful errors: 29 points at 12/21 on shots, including 3/6 from long distance, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 interception and 4 blocks, including two against… Rudy Gobert. 29 points also for his teammate within the Texan club, the returning Devin Vassell (8/16 on shots).
The Spurs showed their speed, their madness and their enthusiasm in order to get the best start (9-2) in this part, with a huge dunk from “Wemby”. The two Frenchmen often had the opportunity to rub shoulders with each other. First real one-on-one at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter, Gobert pushing Wembanyama to a shot while stepping back, very, too complicated (27-22). The latter started the second with a shot on the muzzle of his elder, then another on that of “KAT”, before a triple from Doug McDermott which gave his team 10 (34-24). The Gobert/“Wemby” duel continued in the paint, a balanced duel, with several balls kept alive by Gobert, but “Wemby” used his mobility to provoke a foul from his compatriot before countering him near the circle and returning a triple in front of him from Le Chesnay to equalize at 53-53, while Minnesota had rebalanced the debates and even took the lead at 46-48 thanks to Anthony Edwards, who was not afraid of the long segments of the former Met ( 54-56 MT).
Continuing its momentum after the restart, the “Twin Cities” team began to show why it is the best in the league in defense at the start of the season. Gobert little served by his partners but impactful, Wembanyama altruistic with this magnificent pass to the ground for Zack Collins. The Ile-de-France resident also and above all made two quick mistakes, including one by biting on a feint from “Antman”. In fact, fouls fell everywhere on “SA”, including the fourth from Collins. Gobert pushed Wembanyama under the circle at the heart of a 12-0 Wolves (59-75), finally launched. Pushed away from the circle, the Spurs foiled. On a wire. Series stopped by an alley-oop concluded by “Wemby”, but “KAT” – breathtaking in this third quarter – and company had clearly taken control.
Also read: Victor Wembanyama, his head above the stars
The score with 12 minutes remaining? 73-90. Resting at the end of the third quarter, the two Frenchmen returned to action for the start of the fourth. Unplayable, Towns continued his festival. Although, the Dominican was also subject to Wembanyama's law, which is incontrovertible when he shoots backwards. San Antonio made a small comeback, returning to -12 on an alley-oop from its Frenchman (83-95). While the ex-Nanterre player was blowing on the bench, Gobert in turn made his presence felt, on the rebounds but also with this powerful dunk. Return of “Wemby”, two entry points, while San Antonio reignited the suspense (96-102). And if, what if... A wasted transition, an offensive foul: empty passage for Gobert, again countered by Wembanyama. With four points in a row, the latter brought San Antonio to -7 with less than two minutes remaining (101-108). He was forgiven for his stupid mistake in the last minute with a huge three points on the head of “KAT”, 33 seconds from time (110-115), in vain (110-117 final score).