One of the prevailing narratives of the NBA season has been the battle for Rookie of the Year. Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren have both had great seasons as versatile big men. Wembanyama has put up better counting stats, but Holmgren’s team has won more games. It’s fitting that in their second meeting of the season, Wembanyama put up the better stats, but Holmgren’s team won the game.
The San Antonio Spurs fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 140-114. Mostly on the back of Shai Gilegeous-Alexander, who was unstoppable on his way to 32 points and 12 assists. The Thunder shot 45% from three-point range and over 50% from the field, putting on an offensive clinic against San Antonio.
They didn’t have an answer for Wembanyama, who was aggressive from the tip. He finished the game with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks. His rival, Holmgren, had 17 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks in the win.
Wembanyama was extra aggressive in this one. You could tell that the matchup meant something extra to him, whether he admits to that or not.
❌ WEMBY REJECTION ❌— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 25, 2024
3 BLKS for the rookie tonight! pic.twitter.com/BFZXQkWXyS
Holmgren didn’t go at Wembanyama much in the first half. He didn’t need to, as Jalen Williams and SGA were carrying the scoring load for the Thunder. Wembanyama was able to block his shot here despite the good screen from Vasilije Micic.
The Thunder elected to put Holmgren on Sochan, and leave the smaller Williams with the Wemby assignment. The Spurs’ rookie center did a good job of taking advantage of this mismatch on the offensive boards and in the low post. He used his height advantage to go over the top of the Thunder defense, grabbing 6 offensive rebounds.
This rip-through dunk, with no dribble, mind you, was one of the best plays of the night. Truly one of Wemby’s most “wow” moments. He gave Holmgren a bit of a stare down after this one, too.
This is the play everyone will be talking about, though. Wembanyama going right through Holmgren’s chest and jamming it with two hands. Then we get the stare down of the night.
After that play, Wemby got a tip in (that might have gone off Chet into the basket) and he was laughing at him. This rivalry is going to be awesome to track for years to come.
GIDDEY TESTS WEMBY— WembyMuse (@Wemby_Muse) January 25, 2024
IT DOES NOT GO WELL FOR GIDDEY pic.twitter.com/AVpugb86Kl
This block on Giddey was the second time we’ve seen Wembanyama just swallow a shot whole. On the other end he lobbed the ball to Blake Wesley, who if not fouled, would have completed one of the best sequences of the game.
Despite the highlight plays from Wembanyama, the Spurs had no chance in this game. The bench played too poorly for San Antonio to stay in it. They’ll hope to bounce back against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
You can find full game highlights below.