San Antonio’s star rookie dropped dazzling dimes and made history with one of the shortest triple-double games in NBA history.
SAN ANTONIO — “Worst team in the league” is a title no franchise wants to bear, and in a battle between two leading candidates Wednesday night the Spurs smacked the Pistons 130-108.
Victor Wembanyama recorded the first triple double of his young career, putting up 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in just 21 minutes. The only other player in NBA history to record a triple double in 20 minutes is Russell Westbrook, who did it just once. He’s the youngest center to record a triple double, and the youngest player ever to get one without a turnover.
It was the third game in a row where Tre Jones started, and the third game in a row where San Antonio figured out how to win the third quarter and compete throughout.
The Spurs are still looking at another lottery pick this season, but they’re showing signs of improvement in recent games and weeks. It didn’t result in wins against the Bucks or Cavs, but against the lowly Pistons they were able to dial in what’s been working for them during this stretch.
6-30 might not be much better than 3-35, but there’s an important difference between a team that is losing games and a team that is losing hope, and it was on display Wednesday night in Detroit.
San Antonio lost 60 games last year, and Wembanyama’s rookie season hasn’t brought the quick turnaround many had hoped for, but the Pistons are a good reminder that there are deeper circles of basketball hell. Recall that last season Detroit lost more games than San Antonio, making it their fourth season in a row with under 24 wins, and instead of landing the best prospect since LeBron they got the fifth pick.
They came into this season hopeful for better with their talented former top pick Cade Cunningham returning from injury and playing under Monty Williams, but this young team hasn’t clicked and they’re on pace for the worst season in NBA history after the worst losing streak in NBA history. Cunningham is doing the best he can, but he recently suffered an injury that will keep him out at least a few more games.
Wednesday night’s game was one of the only ones this season where the Spurs were genuinely expected to win, and they controlled it throughout.
Right out of the gate Tre Jones showed the chemistry with Victor Wembanyama. First he took a handoff and slashed in for a layup, then Wemby drove and shoveled a no-look pass to a cutting Jones for the reverse. He made a simple pass to Wemby in the post for an easy bucket, and the rookie scored again soon after with a classic “I’m taller than you” finish, but the Pistons hung in there and got out to a 10-8 lead before Pop called time.
Out of that timeout Wemby posted up again and got pushed off his base a bit, but he spun away for a fading jumper that swished. He impacted a bunch of attempts at the rim, and after one he grabbed the board and whipped it all the way down the court to Jeremy Sochan for a slam. A few plays later Wembanyama ran the break, eurostepped and found Sochan with another no-look pass for another dunk.
Sochan hit a fading jumper in the paint, then Vassell did, making it 18-straight points in the paint to start the game before Keldon swished a three fresh off the bench.
Vassell hit Dom Barlow for a jumper, then drove for a jumper of his own. Barlow soared in for a huge block, and his activity on the glass helped generate extra chances for San Antonio. Malaki Branham hit a middie, then a three as the Spurs pushed their lead to 16. Detroit responded with a 9-2 run, and a displeased Popovich called time.
Wemby passed to a cutting Keldon, who flipped it to the corner to Cedi Osman for an open triple. Johnson threw his big body into a defender and scooped in a layup with his left hand. He also locked in and locked up playing some defense on an island.
In transition Tre found the tall fella and lobbed it up for him, resulting in a pair of free throws. They tried it again, but Wemby couldn’t quite corral it. The next trip he posted and went for a lefty scoop, earning another trip to the line. Branham missed inside but tipped the rebound to Wembanyama for an easy jam.
Barlow bailed out a few possessions to slow the run Detroit was trying to make behind Bojan Bogdanovic. Vassell scored inside, then Keldon a few times, then Jones, then Sochan. Jones kicked to Sochan and he banked in a triple to make it 63-51 at the break.
San Antonio started the second half in a zone defense. Vassell threw a dangerous entry pass to Wemby, but the rookie recovered it and reverse dunked through a foul.
The next trip they inverted the pick and roll and Wembanyama dished to a cutting Vassell who went up and under for an open dunk. Wembanyama made another unselfish play and passed to Sochan, who got stymied but got it back and finished.
Wemby grabbed a board, led the break, and bounced a pass between the defender’s legs to Champagnie for a layup. His next assist was a look-away Statue of Liberty handoff to Sochan.
The unselfish ball movement continued, and the Spurs pushed to their largest lead of 20. As Detroit pushed back, San Antonio held the line.
The first play of the fourth quarter saw Osman lobbing to Wemby for a huge dunk. McDermott hit a three, then Wemby set a savage screen for him on a handoff to get that eighth assist and make it a career high.
Wembanyama posted up and scooped a bounce pass to Osman streaking through the lane for an and-1 and his ninth dime. McDermott came to him for a handoff, then veered away from it and Wemby hit him with perfect timing for the triple double.
Sochan, Vassell, Jones, Johnson, Barlow, Osman and McDermott all joined Wembanyama in double figures. San Antonio scored 74 points in the paint and had 36 assists to just five turnovers.
Their next game will be Friday hosting the struggling Hornets, looking to build on this momentum.