Andrew Lopezespn4 minutes to read
SAN ANTONIO – AS Victor Wimbanyama walked onto the Frost Bank Center court during pregame warmups for his NBA regular season debut. He then extended his arms through the tunnel to the Big Five fans on both sides before descending onto the field.
Wembanyama’s performance was affected by serious problems, but he put on a great show for the 18,947 fans in the fourth quarter before the Dallas Mavericks pulled away from the Spurs and Wembanyama won 126-119.
“There are definitely a lot of emotions, but a win would have been perfect,” Wembanyama said after the match.
Wimbanyama said it was “surreal” to see the number of fans in the building before the opening point, and he made things go well.
On the Spurs’ first defensive possession, Wimpanyama tackled Dallas’ Kyrie Irving. But as the match progressed, Wimpanyama found himself in serious trouble throughout the night.
He picked up his second foul with 43.5 seconds left in the first quarter and played just 5 minutes and 33 seconds in the second quarter. In the third period, Wembanyama picked up two fouls 3:23 into the first half and sat for the rest of the quarter.
When he returned for the fourth quarter, he quickly found his way to the bench just 26 seconds later as he picked up his fifth foul for reaching Luka Doncic.
Wembanyama returned to the game with 7:12 left and immediately made his presence felt as he picked off a puck from teammate Devin Vassell. He scored nine in the quarter, but it wasn’t enough as Irving and Doncic both hit 3-pointers to secure the win.
“One of the hardest things for a player is getting in foul trouble,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “You never get into a rhythm, you go in and out of the game and that kind of thing. I think his maturity showed, even at a young age where he came in the last seven minutes and just played.”
“We executed some things for him, he executed in a place that a lot of guys were completely out of by then because, like I said, they were in deep foul trouble and not getting into rhythm. I thought he had a great outing considering that.” “Which.”
Wimbanyama played 23 minutes and finished with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-5 from deep.
Despite dealing with this issue, he said he tried his best to stay positive in the long run.
“It can be frustrating, but always keeping your heads up is good for my teammates,” Wimbanyama said. “I can’t show it on the field, and we’re learning every day.”
Vassell, who led the Spurs with 23 points, said he expects big things from Wembanyama when he returns to the court on Friday when San Antonio hosts the Houston Rockets. But he also said this is still a learning experience for the rest of the roster.
“We’re all figuring each other out,” Vassell said. “We’re all discovering Wimpy. He’s discovering us. We just have to figure out how to play as a team and make sure the game is easy for him and that he doesn’t have to do as much as he has to. Get him in ISO situations and get easy throws and easy looks to help him move forward.”
“He requires a lot of attention, and if they’re cooperating with him, we should be able to cut and make some plays out of that.”
Doncic, who finished with 33 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, said he enjoyed facing Wambanyama in his first game.
“It was fun,” Doncic said. “We knew the whole building was going to be loud and everything. This is probably one of the best opportunities to get into the NBA, so it was fun. For me personally, I like challenges, so that was a fun challenge.”
Doncic and Irving combined to score 20 of the Mavericks’ 30 goals in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Irving finished with 22 points and six assists.
After the match, Doncic praised the Spurs’ new signing, saying Wembanyama would be “amazing”.
“Obviously he’s got the size, like everyone talks about, but the way he moves 7-5, 7-6 — I don’t know what it is, sorry — but he moves unbelievable,” Doncic said. “He moves almost like a goalkeeper. So it’s very amazing to see him. He’s going to have a great future, and it’ll be amazing to watch.”
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