Wemby closes strong, earns Pop’s praise in debut


SAN ANTONIO — Despite his best efforts in the fourth quarter, Victor Wembanyama was on the losing end in his debut Wednesday night.

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving each hit clutch late 3-pointers for the Dallas Mavericks as they held on for the 126-119 win over Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs.

The No. 1 overall pick played just 15 minutes in the first three quarters and picked up his fifth foul just 26 seconds into the fourth quarter. When he returned with 7:12 to play, he immediately made an impact, catching a lob and getting the 18,947 in attendance at the Frost Bank Center back into the game.

He added a 3-pointer and a dunk with contact that gave the Spurs a 113-112 lead with 4:56 to play. The lead changed hands until Dallas took the lead for good on an Irving 3-pointer with 1:51 left as the Mavs finished the game on an 8-0 run and kept San Antonio scoreless in the final 2:09.

Wembanyama finished with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block on 6-of-9 shooting (3-of-5 from deep) in 23 minutes.

Doncic had 33 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists while Irving finished with 22 points and six assists for Dallas.

Wembanyama made his presence felt on the Spurs’ first defensive possession by blocking Irving on a jump shot in the paint.

Wembanyama’s first shot attempt was a pull-up 3 in transition just 90 seconds into the game. His next attempt at the 8:24 mark went in, giving him his first NBA points. He made another 3-pointer in the first and missed one more in the second.

Wembanyama’s night was marred by foul trouble throughout. He picked up his second late in the first quarter and didn’t check back in until the 8:45 mark of the second quarter, a stint that lasted five and a half minutes with little production.

In the third quarter, Wembanyama picked up two early fouls and checked out just 3:23 after halftime. His fourth quarter started even worse, as he fouled Doncic on a reach just 26 seconds into the final frame. Wembanyama was visibly upset with himself as he checked out.

The foul trouble was uncommon for Wembanyama, who had just six fouls in 84 minutes across four games in the preseason.

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