Masterful. Great art. And praise galore. Just eight days after his NBA debut, the highly anticipated Victor Wembanyama achieved an exceptional performance by scoring 38 points to win a second game with the Spurs against Phoenix on Thursday (132-121). Nineteen years old, 5 NBA matches under the clock, and a first night of madness already, for the French giant (2.24 m), who behaved like the boss of his team by being decisive, particularly at the end of the match to extinguish the return of the Suns of one of his idols, Kevin Durant.
“I don’t see anyone like him in the NBA. I know we're both tall and skinny, I know he watched me play when I was younger, but he watched a lot of others and took inspiration from them. It is unique. He’s going to create his own story,” Durant said, praisingly, when asked about their similarities. The most anticipated rookie since LeBron James in 2003, “Wemby” did better than the “King”, who had not scored more than 25 points in his first five matches. Before his 38 points in the evening, the Frenchman had scored between 11 and 21 points.
Rarely does a young player manage to establish himself in a team so quickly. Wembanyama's fourth quarter (38 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks in 34 minutes) has already moved him into the boss category. His Spurs, ahead by 20 points at halftime, saw the Suns come back to tie (116-116) a few minutes from the end. The moment chosen by “Wemby” to score 10 points in three minutes, assisted by two points from Zach Collins, without the Suns finding the basket.
Decisive? “It’s obligatory to be ambitious,” assumed the Frenchman at a press conference. The native of Chesnay-Rocquencourt (Yvelines) displayed his entire range during the match, between dunks (notably one with a crazy jump in the second quarter), finishes near the basket with a nice touch of the ball, or more killer mid-range or three-point shots, almost impossible to counter given its size.
“He’s good, he’s really good. He didn't do too much, didn't carry the ball too much, wasn't too individual, he kept it simple, that's what great players do,” praised Durant, double NBA champion ( 2017 and 2018).
“In every match we try to find the right way to hurt the other team, tonight it happened like that, maybe tomorrow it will be someone else,” Wembanyama qualified.
“But someone had to do it. In the fourth quarter in the NBA, you have to make big plays to shut down your opponents.”
The Spurs thus won a second victory in a row in Phoenix, two days after snatching a victory down to the wire (115-114). Last in the Western Conference last season (22 wins, 60 losses), San Antonio had an unexpected start to the season (3 wins, 2 losses), with the youngest squad in the NBA. They host Toronto on Sunday for their next meeting.
The only negative point for the Texans on Thursday evening was that they lost their fullback and very good scorer Devin Vassell to injury, who left during the match with a groin injury. Vassell “is going to be out for a while,” according to coach Gregg Popovich, and is scheduled to have an MRI on Friday. Thursday evening, Philadelphia, led by 2023 MVP Joel Embiid (28 points, 13 rebounds) dominated Toronto (114-99) and Orlando narrowly won in Utah (115-113) with 30 points from Paolo Banchero.