Victor Wembanyama Bounces Back From Injury But Spurs Still Come Up Short Against Warriors

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Victor Wembanyama

Back after a two-game absence, Victor Wembanyama finished as the top scorer in Monday night’s game between the Spurs and Warriors with 27 points and 14 rebounds but was unable to prevent his side’s 112-102 defeat at home.

“Everything’s fine, but I’m not sure I’m at 100% either,” explained Victor Wembanyama as he laced up his shoes in the dressing room before the game. Cautious after twisting his ankle and missing the San Antonio Spurs‘ last two meetings, the French big man nevertheless appeared in fine form against the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. 

In a Frost Bank Center abnormally filled with blue and yellow thanks to Warriors fans who were both visible and noisy, Wembanyama ran the paint from the outset, taking advantage of his opponents’ size deficit and the mismatches created by the opposing zone defense. He finished the first quarter with 7 points and 7 rebounds as the Spurs pulled out to a 37-29 lead.

Limited in his playing time in the first half, Wemby made the most of his minutes by drawing numerous fouls, including a number called on Draymond Green, who ultimately fouled out. However, Golden State was able to count on two other veterans:  Chris Paul (19 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists) and Klay Thompson (34, 21 points), who helped them get back into the game just before the break (60-58).

Spurs collapsed with Wembanyama on the bench before he was posterized late in the game

Surprisingly victorious over the Warriors on Saturday despite Wembanyama’s absence (126-113), the Spurs seemed to be holding their own again in this game. Unfortunately, they suddenly collapsed in the third quarter, giving up a 19-0 run as their French rookie returned to the bench.

It was a deficit that proved impossible to overcome at the end of the game, even though the 20-year-old Frenchman tried his best with an alley-oop over Green and a block on Jonathan Kuminga. “What happened in the 3rd quarter? They scored more points than we did… Any more intelligent questions?” ranted Spurs coach Gregg Popovich after the game. On his return, the French rookie finished with an impressive double-double (27 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks).

“I found myself very much in rhythm. surprisingly. I was expecting to struggle a bit more,” commented Wemby, before referring to his team’s collective performance: “Sometimes we lack consistency, and tonight we didn’t respond enough to their physical challenge”. He finished the game by being spectacularly posterized by Trayce Jackson-Davis. The 24-year-old launched himself into a left-handed drive before taking off to crush a dunk just above the fingers of the former Mets 92 player, who was also called for a foul. 

“If I had no chance of countering the shot, I wouldn’t have gone for it, but 99% of the time, I can go for it. Getting dunked on is nothing, it’s part of the game. I counter more often than I get dunked on, so that’s positive,” said Wembanyama, who has 195 blocks this season and firmly leads the league in that category ahead of Brook Lopez (Milwaukee, 161). The Spurs will now take on Houston at the Frost Bank Center on Tuesday evening.

This post is originally from L’Équipe