Once completely abandoned, Victor Wembanyama's San Antonio Spurs managed an improbable turnaround to win 115-114 on the floor of star Kevin Durant's Phoenix Suns on Tuesday in the NBA.
On this Halloween evening, Victor Wembanyama arrived in Phoenix disguised as Slender Man (faceless fictional character, huge arms, dark costume, white body). But for a long time, the 19-year-old Frenchman and his young Texan teammates were as scary as a bunch of kids looking for sweets, before turning the end of the game around.
Two days after a humiliation against the Clippers (40-point defeat), the Spurs were up to 20 points behind in the 3rd quarter, and gradually came back.
“We made tons of mistakes, but that’s what the game wants. Like all teams. We continued to play, that’s the strength of this group. I’m proud of them,” said coach Gregg Popovich.
Winger Keldon Johnson, top scorer of the game (27 points), snatched the ball from Kevin Durant's hands to score with one second remaining, putting San Antonio in front for the first time in the match.
“It’s a huge interception. We didn’t have a great game, but we learn every day and we are on the right path,” said Wembanyama, author of 18 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks in 28 minutes.
Discreet at the start of the match, the 19-year-old Frenchman sounded the revolt of his team in the last period by stringing together two blocks and an acrobatic basket, the ball thrown back over his head. It was also he who allowed the Texans to stick to the score in the final moments with a quick mid-range shot and a tap following a teammate's missed shot, just before Johnson's decisive action.
The No. 1 of the last draft, surrounded by immense expectations, thus achieved the first away victory of his young NBA career, which began last week. After four matches, the Spurs have a balanced record (2 wins, 2 losses), starting on a much better basis than last year (22 wins, 60 losses).
The evening duel pitted the young Frenchman against one of the big stars of the league, the American Kevin Durant (35 years old), double NBA champion (2017 and 2018), still orphan of the two other stars of the Suns, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, injured.
Often beaten, “Wemby” still managed an action just before halftime that immediately overwhelmed social networks: a dribble on Durant on the three-point line before a left-handed “poster” dunk on pivot Drew Eubanks .
“KD, he’s like he’s on TV! As I imagined for my first match. Sometimes I think these players were my idols for ten years. But I have to pull myself together because they're just going to try to walk all over me during the matches. So idol or not, I have to get into them,” commented Wembanyama.
Phoenix will have the opportunity to take revenge on Thursday by welcoming the Spurs again.
Earlier in the evening, the New York Knicks dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers (109-91). Paul George's Los Angeles Clippers (27 points) won their third victory in four matches against Orlando (118-102), under the eyes of their new teammate James Harden, in the stands after the announcement of his transfer from Philadelphia .