The days follow each other and are not the same. Embarrassed by mistakes, Victor Wembanyama had a lackluster match for his NBA debut on Wednesday against Dallas (119-126 defeat). He spent the second Friday, actively participating in the victory of “his” Spurs against Houston (126-122). Clumsy in the first period (5 pts), the Frenchman took the reins at the end of the match and scored 13 of his 21 points between the fourth quarter and overtime, with key actions in defense. The 19-year-old prodigy also grabbed 12 rebounds for his first double-double. He finished with 7/19 on shots (0/6 at 3 pts) and 1 assist in 31 minutes (4 ball losses, 2 fouls). “The kid is special,” summarizes Devin Vassell, author of 25 points. 20 units for Keldon Johnson. Three players with more than 20 points for the Rockets, Alpreren Sengun (25 pts, 14 rebounds), Fred VanVleet (24 pts, 12 pds) and Jalen Green (22 pts).
One thing is certain: “Wemby” was much more and better served than against the Mavs. And still, it wasn't enough. How many times have we seen the Ile-de-France resident alone or facing “little ones” in transition and not being looked for? “These are adjustments to be made, we will get there,” agrees Vassell. It's promising... Wembanyama's impact was also significant in defense. There is what we see in the statistics (2 interceptions, 3 blocks), but also everything else, all these shots not taken or poorly taken, these ball losses caused… All without forgetting the show aspect. In short, there is work, but it is progressing. “My match was not perfect,” he humbly admits, he who spent many sequences and long minutes on the bench, still savoring after this “desired victory”. “I wanted her badly,” he smiled again.
Also read “It’s a day I will remember, I wanted it, badly”: Victor Wembanyama savors his first success in the NBA
From the outset, the Frenchman was much more aggressive than on Wednesday, scoring the first five points for his team (5-4), including a dunk... which he crushed on the head of his teammate Sochan, not high enough to catch this lob (see below). Aggression, but also waste, especially from afar but not only. When he came out, with 6'53 to play in the first quarter (5-10), “Wemby” was 2/7 on shots. His return with 2'21 to play coincided with a 7-0 (18-20, then 25-20). He contributed in defense, like this ball saved/stolen along the sidelines (25-23 end of 1st QT) in this match marked by... clumsiness, on both sides. Wembanyama, who saw the defenders marching towards him (Green, Sengun, Smith Jr…), continued to spray from afar and committed his first foul. He came out at 8'39 from the break (31-32).
Forgotten rebounds, ball losses, clumsiness... The Spurs were taking on water everywhere during this time (42-51)! Return of “Wemby” with 1'27 to play (44-52), accompanying his team's rise to the score (52-52 MT), with a rebound scraped from the ceiling of the San Antonio room before raising the ball and serve Osman for three points. That's it, too, "Wemby," who finished with the second-best /- on his team (9) behind Tre Jones (14) and the best among the members of the Spurs starting five.
He started again with his foot on the ground, mounting the ball on the right side before scoring in traffic, with the foul as a bonus (55-52). Some inaccuracies, notably this offensive foul which invited Gregg Popovich to take him out with 6'26 to play in the third quarter (62-66). The Spurs continued to multiply the odd in attack and defense. Until then, it was a crossover. Houston now widened the gap while the former Mets was still breathing on the bench (71-81). A final basket from McDermott, beyond the arc, and “SA” was at -7 with 12 minutes to play.
We had to wait 1'20 in this fourth quarter to see the native of Chesnay return (83-85). His presence did not slow down the circulation of the ball, as was sometimes the case at the start of the match, still adjustments to be made, but he was also found at high altitude, “alley oop time” (90-91)! His loss of the ball against the excellent Sengun broke the collective momentum a little (90-95). His reverse dunk on Smith Jr's head - with the foul as a bonus - on the other hand made the Frost Bank Center exult, this counter also on Sengun (96-98), before returning to the bench with 5'25 to play. Vassell held the house and “Wemby”, restarted 3'15 from the buzzer at 102-105, wasted no time in showing up: double counter on Smith Jr! His two throws brought his team to -1 with 1'09 to play (108-109). Mistakes, again, for the young Spurs, but Houston left the door open by missing shots. “Wemby” pushed him (111-111). Missed by Smith, the Frenchman fought to get a jump ball 1''9 from the end against Brooks (1.98m), which he won, but it was overtime.
On his momentum, Wembanyama used his technique to free himself from the marking (113-111), before a fierce dunk from Johnson (115-111). The flies had changed their minds. The Frenchman's deterrence paid off (117-111). After a missed throw, he fought to keep possession before crushing a huge tap on two opponents... but the referees judged that the ball was in the cylinder, canceled (118-113). He added two points to the shots (120-115) and grabbed a huge rebound (122-118). “Wemby” and the Spurs did not tremble at the end (126-122 final score) and posted a balanced record (1v-1d) before three away matches (Clippers, Phoenix x2).