Victor Wembanyama produced flashes of the greatness in his NBA debut but the San Antonio Spurs came up short against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. The Spurs led for a majority of the contest before losing by a final count of 126-119.
San Antonio came out of the gates firing on all cylinders offensively. At the end of the first quarter, the good guys had a 43-36 lead. In the second quarter, the Spurs were able to remain in control and took a 68-64 advantage into intermission.
In the second half, the Mavericks quickly closed the gap and then it was a back and forth affair the rest of the way. The Spurs rallied out of five-point holes multiple times in the fourth quarter and grabbed a 119-118 lead with two minutes remaining. Unfortunately, the Mavs ended the game on an 8-0 run to leave South Texas with a win.
All in all, given the circumstances, I thought the Spurs played well. With Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving on their side, the Mavs obviously had the advantage in any scenario that included a tight fourth quarter. But, yeah, San Antonio’s young guns don’t have much to hang their head about.
Stats: Spurs vs. Mavericks
Spurs vs. Mavericks – Final Grades
On a per-minute basis, Wembanyama was highly productive in his first ever NBA game. Totaling 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 23 minutes is a wonderful night at the office. His three-point shooting looked great and watching Wembanyama score nine points in a three minute stretch in the fourth quarter to bring the Spurs back was the most exciting thing to happen in San Antonio in years. Alas, there was no smooth sailing on this night. Wembanyama struggled with foul trouble from the first quarter and it obviously disrupted his rhythm. The rookie also turned it over five times and was a bit too jumpy at times. That said, I thought Wembanyama did great in the difficult setting. He’s a game-changing franchise player with sky-high potential — and the 19-year-old lived up to that billing in his debut.
Vassell looked really, really good in the first half. I thought he was competing well defensively and he was making offense look easy. Mixing perimeter shots with strong drives to the hoop, Vassell had 15 points at halftime. Unfortunately, he cooled a bit in the second half. His defense wasn’t as sturdy in the final two quarters and his shot-selection wasn’t nearly as clean. Vassell looks poised for a big season but his play against the Mavericks wasn’t as steady as San Antonio needs him to be.
For the first three and a half quarter, Johnson was playing some of the best all-around basketball of his career. He was actually playing stout perimeter defense. He was authoring wise passes. He was active on the boards. In all facets, he was picking his spots well. Tragically, Johnson’s night will mostly be remembered by his poor play down the stretch. With San Antonio still in it, he missed two shots, turned the ball over and made a couple mistakes on defense. By the time the dust settled on Johnson’s errors, the Spurs were doomed. Big picture-wise, it was great to see Johnson play so well after a sleepy preseason. Next time, though, he needs to make better decisions during money time.
Sochan started at point guard, which shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone following along. The good: Sochan’s effort on defense was commendable. When he wasn’t contesting shots on the perimeter, he was banging bodies in the paint. On offense, Sochan’s three-point shot looks much improved. The hitch that he carried throughout his rookie season looks to have mostly vanished. He had some really good passes and strong takes to the cup. The bad: As much as Sochan efforted on defense, the results weren’t anything to write home about. He got scored on a lot despite seemingly being in the right spots. Offensively, Sochan’s finishing at the hoop was poor and his ball-handling wasn’t tight enough. I think he has it in him to play point guard but he needs to play a more polished brand of basketball than we saw tonight.
Like Sochan, Collins had his share of positives and negatives. He was a perfect 6-for-6 on two-pointers, however he missed all four of his three-pointers. Collins was physical in the paint but he also got pushed around a lot and also found himself in foul trouble. I liked his rim protection for the most part but he could have been better on the boards. Overall, this was a pretty good start to the season for Collins … but he can play better.
Jones looked fantastic in his new role as the spark plug off the bench. He pushed the pace really well, got everyone involved, played pesky defense and kept the Mavs on their heels. Jones’ three-pointers also looked really smooth. (If that three-point stroke is for real, Jones’ value increases drastically.) I don’t think he can play much better than he did tonight.
Who says the preseason doesn’t mean anything? After very strong preseason play, Osman won himself a prominent spot in the rotation. On Day 1 of the regular season, he did nothing to relinquish the role he earned. Osman’s defense continues to be better than advertised. There were a few possessions where he looked like the best perimeter defender on the court for the Silver and Black. Osman didn’t hesitate to shoot threes but he also took it to the hoop with gusto and made the right passes. Good stuff.
The good: Branham was 3-for-4 inside of the arc. He has a large arsenal of weapons when he puts the ball on the ground. Branham did well to play within the offense and was also scrappy on defense. The bad: Branham missed all three of his three-pointers. He has to hit threes to be a valuable commodity in today’s NBA, so that wasn’t a good start to his season. He also seemed to lose confidence for a few stretches, which hopefully won’t be a common occurrence during his sophomore season in the association.
Bassey’s timing wasn’t pristine and he was playing jittery at times but, net-net, the backup center did well versus Dallas. His springiness altered the geometry of the game during a handful of possessions. Bassey was gobbling up rebounds, challenging shots and running the court with purpose. Additionally, his passing made him a seamless fit on the offensive end.
McDermott lost his leading role off the bench to Osman … and then did next to nothing during the 11 minutes he received. After an unsightly preseason, McDermott didn’t do anything to change that pattern. Hopefully he can loosen up soon because right now he’s not moving well.
Watching the game live, it looked like Wembanyama needed more touches. In retrospect, Wembanyama needed more touches. Pop deserves to shoulder some of that blame. Yes, the rookie being in foul trouble didn’t help matters. Yes, his teammates were sometimes blind to mismatches and sometimes failed to pass when the sky was clear. But, please, more touches for the Frenchman going forward. Other than that, I thought Pop was okay-ish. I like the starting lineup. I agree with the coaches that Osman deserves that spot in the rotation. I didn’t like McDermott getting five fourth quarter minutes. Pop’s usage of Vassell after the first quarter also felt a bit herky-jerky.