In the first-ever meeting between 2023 #1 Pick Victor Wembanyama and 2003 #1 Pick LeBron James, it was 2020 #11 Pick Devin Vassell who stole the show with a new-career high 36 points as the San Antonio Spurs broke their franchise-record 18-game losing streak with a wire-to-wire 129-115 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Spurs went one better than Wednesday night where their 20-point fourth quarter comeback effort fell short with the Lakers taking the first game of the two-game mini-series in San Antonio. LeBron James sat out of the win for the Lakers on Wednesday with Anthony Davis taking on the scoring load, in this one it was AD, along with D’Angelo Russell & Cam Reddish who sat out with “The King” tasked with beating the Spurs without some of his co-stars.
The Spurs who played an awful first three quarters on Wednesday came out firing in this one, starting on a 16-4 run and hitting numerous outside shots. The Silver & Black were playing with pace and taking full effect of the transition game with 11 fastbreak points in the first six minutes of action. Devin Vassell who was coming off three poor shooting games in a row started aggressive and had 11 first quarter points. It wasn’t just the starters who were playing well but the Spurs bench were outplaying the Lakers reserves, especially Zach Collins who was dominating in the paint. The Spurs had a 20-point advantage after one, 42-22.
After a 40+ point avalanche in the opening 12 minutes, the offense was a bit harder to come by in the second, mostly due to the Lakers sitting in a 2-3 zone. The Spurs lead also started to get cut as they made a number of defensive mistakes when they went to double LeBron in the post. LBJ was able to spray the ball to the open shooters or cutters and a once 20-point lead was down to under 10 by half, 69-62.
The Spurs who had previously only won one third-quarter this season came out of the half with some answers to the Lakers zone as they moved the ball around the perimeter and found cutters for good looks. Just as the lead was starting to ballon, the Lakers responded with a quick run that included multiple bombs from the outside by Austin Reaves. With the quarter in the balance it was San Antonio who finished the third stronger with a unit on the floor that included Wemby + four bench players. Thanks to a strong defensive effort the home side won just their second third-quarter of the season and pushed their lead to double-digits heading into the fourth, 98-87.
The Spurs started the fourth pushing the pace and not allowing the game to turn into a half-court affair, using their youth against the Lakers by making them play at their speed. The Silver & Black’s energy just become too much for the Lakers to handle as Devin Vassell took over the fourth with 10 points and two killer threes as the Spurs broke their 18-game losing streak with a 129-115 win over the Lakers.
- Stole the show. The whole promotion from the NBA heading into the contest was about Wemby’s first meeting with LeBron, but after the game Devin Vassell was the only name on everyone’s minds. Dev scored a career-high 36 points on efficient shooting and was a true 3-level scorer in this game. Vassell hit five threes, multiple mid-range jumpers and when he went to the rack he either scored or got fouled and sent to the line (7/7 FT). There were those out there that was starting to doubt Dev because of just three poor games, but once again like he has done so many times in his four years in San Antonio, he put on a scoring masterclass to quell any comments on where his future may lay.
- Defended the throne. After just 7 minutes and 3 fouls in the first-half for Jeremy Sochan, the second-year Spur put on possibly the best half of defense in his NBA career. Like usual, Sochan was tasked with defending the opposition’s best player, tonight LeBron James and after James went off for 18 points in the first 24 minutes, Sochan held LBJ to just 5 points on 2/6 shooting in the second-half. Jeremy did a much better job in the final two quarters of staying attached to LeBron and getting around screens to crowd his space without fouling which frustrated “The King”. It’s been a rollacoaster of a season on both ends of the floor for the Guard/Forward but his defense is starting to round into shape and hopefully a performance like this can boost his confidence and we can start seeing more of the flashes we all saw from him in his rookie year.
- Stepped up the role. As good as Dev was offensively with his career-high and as impressive as Sochan’s second-half defensive performance on LeBron was, the Spurs have got to give a lot of credit to their role players for stepping up to help break their losing streak. From Malaki Branham’s 15 points and two threes, to Cedi Osman and Zach Collins’s 31 combined points off the bench, the role players stepped up huge to help the Spurs grab their fourth win of the season.
Player of the Game
3rd: Victor Wembanyama - 13 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 stocks in 31 minutes
2nd: Jeremy Sochan - 11 points (5/10), 8 rebounds and outstanding defense in 27 minutes
1st: Devin Vassell - 36 points (12/19, 5/10, 7/7), 6 rebounds, 3 assists in 35 minutes
Play Of The Game
Wemby went out back and chopped up the Wood:
Next Game: Vs New Orleans on Sunday
The Spurs will look to start just their second winning streak of the season when they welcome the New Orleans Pelicans to San Antonio in the last game of their three-game home stand.