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Wembanyama and Vassell shine in first In Season Tournament game

Spurs young stars play well, but can’t top veteran Wolves

In-Season Tournament - Minnesota Timberwolves v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

After getting blown out in their last two games, Gregg Popovich was looking for the San Antonio Spurs to respond at home against a veteran Minnesota Timberwolves team. Despite a 117-110 loss, the head coach had nothing but praise for his young team.

“I was proud of them,” Popovich told reporters. “I thought they did a good job tonight. It’s a very talent team, very experienced team. A team that has desires of winning a championship. I think that our young guys played their butts off. It was a totally different game than Indiana or New York.”

The Spurs were led by two of their most exciting young players – Victor Wembanyama and Devin Vassell.

After a few difficult games for the rookie, Wembanyama bounced back against the Wolves. He had 29 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and 4 blocks. Wembanyama scored the basketball at all three levels. He hit a few threes, was money in the mid-range and had some ferocious dunks over the Wolves stout defense.

It’s been said that Wemby will do something once or twice a game that makes your jaw drop. This play was one of them. The rookie takes off from outside the jump ball circle, and slams it hard with his left. Dunk contest, anyone?

The Spurs are starting to realize they just need to get the ball high to Wembanyama when he’s close to the basket. All night San Antonio was rewarding the rookie for getting out in transition. This lob from Doug McDermott shows that Wemby can just make things happen with his length around the rim.

Wembanyama was excellent passing the ball on Friday night. The Spurs are figuring out how good their high-low pairing of Wembanyama and Zach Collins can be. The rookie did a good job identifying when Collins had position on the block a few times on Friday. Here, the Wolves went to a zone defense and the Spurs found Wemby on the short corner. Collins flashes to the open spot in the middle, and Wembanyama finds him for the easy dunk.

You can find Victor’s full game highlights below.

Vassell returned to the starting lineup after recovering from a groin injury that sidelined him for two games. In our game preview, we suggested he may help the Spurs three-point shooting woes. He did just that, scoring 29 points and knocking down six deep balls. San Antonio shot 35% as a team from beyond the arc. Vassell does a good job moving without the ball in his hands to get him easy looks from deep. Here we see him relocate on the secondary break and get an open three-pointer.

It also helps to have someone who can make things happen with the ball in their hands. Keldon Johnson, Tre Jones and Jeremy Sochan are good at straight line drives, but no one on the team has more in his bag than Vassell. He’s improved on getting to his spots where he’s comfortable, and knocking down shots from deep and in the mid-range.

Vassell was great in transition on Friday. He gives the Spurs a target to look for on hit aheads, and while trailing the break. Here we see Wembanyama erase fellow Frenchman, Rudy Gobert’s shot at the rim, then Vassell stretches the defense on the other end for three. This duo is pretty exciting.

The Spurs may have dropped their first In Season Tournament game, but there is plenty to be excited about in a tough loss. As the team progresses throughout the season, big scoring nights from Wembanyama and Vassell could become more common. San Antonio will have a chance to continue their improved play against the Miami Heat on Sunday.

You can check out full game highlights below.