Foul trouble and Luka Doncic spoil Victor Wembanyama’s NBA debut

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Luka Dončić had a triple-double while leading the Mavericks past Victor Wembanyama and the Spurs in their season-opener on Wednesday night.

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.

Finally, though, Wembanyama surged late in the fourth quarter. He dropped nine points in the period and almost single-handidly 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 win.

Wembanyama finished the night with 15 points, five rbounds and two assists. 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-pinter 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 in 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.

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 less 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 mid-range jumper after a Mavericks timeout.

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

Doncic 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.

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.

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