Victor Wembanyama's late surge after early foul trouble not enough to lift Spurs past Mavericks in NBA debut

Victor Wembanyama was in foul trouble all night during his NBA debut

Victor Wembanyama’s NBA career is officially moving, but his debut was far less exciting than many had hoped.

At least, it was until the final few minutes when he was able to finally turn it on.

Wembanyama, who is easily the most anticipated rookie since LeBron James entered the league, was held to just six points through three quarters and was in foul trouble for much of his season opener with the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night at the Frost Bank Center.

(Illustration by Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)
(Illustration by Henry Russell/Yahoo Sports)

Finally, though, Wembanyama surged late in the fourth quarter. He dropped nine points in the period and almost single-handedly led the Spurs flying back to the win. Yet the Dallas Mavericks, behind a triple-double from Luka Dončić, held on to grab the 126-119 victory.

Wembanyama finished the night with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block. He shot 6-of-9 from the field with three 3-pointers.

Wembanyama wasted no time getting his night started. He blocked a Kyrie Irving jumper not even a minute into the game.

His first points then came midway through the quarter when he drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key over Maxi Kleber.

Wembanyama got a second 3-pointer to fall later in the quarter from the corner, giving him six points in the period. The Spurs dropped 43 points in the first quarter, which was more than they scored in a single quarter all of last season, after they shot 62% from the field and 50% from behind the arc.

Wembanyama’s offense, however, largely ended there. The Mavericks ended the first half on an 8-0 run to cut the Spurs’ lead to four at the break. Wembanyama didn’t attempt a shot in the second quarter.

Luka Dončić had a triple-double while leading the Mavericks past Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs in their season-opener on Wednesday night.
Luka Dončić had a triple-double while leading the Mavericks past Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs in their season-opener on Wednesday night. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Mavericks finally pushed ahead in the third quarter, ending the period on another 8-0 run to take a five-point lead. Wembanyama didn’t shoot the ball in that quarter, either. He picked up two fouls and committed four turnovers in fewer than four minutes, and was quickly subbed out.

While he entered the game to start the fourth quarter, Wembanyama fouled Dončić on a layup for his fifth foul within 30 seconds. Just like that, he was sent back to the bench.

Finally, with only one foul to give, Wembanyama lived up to the hype. He re-entered the game with about seven minutes left and immediately scored nine of his 15 points. He drilled a 3-pointer and threw down a pair of dunks to get the Spurs right back in the game, and then hit another midrange jumper after a Mavericks timeout.

But the Mavericks ended the game strong to fend off Wembanyama’s late push. Dončić hit Irving twice to close out his triple-double down the stretch and then hit a wild stepback 3-pointer to seal the seven-point win.

Dončić finished with 33 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in the win for Dallas. He’s now just the third player in NBA history to record a 30-point triple-double in a season opener. Irving added 22 points, and Grant Williams finished with 17 points. Mavericks rookie Dereck Lively II finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

Devin Vassell led the Spurs with 23 points and shot 9-of-17 from the field. Keldon Johnson added 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and Tre Jones put up 16 points off the bench.

While Wembanyama's been compared to James constantly leading up to his debut, James' first NBA game was much better statistically. James put up 25 points and had nine assists and six rebounds in his debut with the Cavaliers in 2003. James, though, played more than 40 minutes in that contest. Wembanyama was held to just 23 minutes on Wednesday night.

Wembanyama and the Spurs will be back in action on Friday against the Houston Rockets. The Mavericks will host the Brooklyn Nets next on Friday.