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Mavericks spoil Victor Wembanyama’s NBA debut, beat the Spurs 126-119 in season opener

Luka Doncic had 33 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists and the Dallas Mavericks spoiled the NBA debut of No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama, beating the San Antonio Spurs 126-119 on Wednesday night.

“It was fun,” Doncic said. “We knew the whole building was going to be loud. He’s probably one of the best prospects to enter the NBA. It was fun. For me, personally, I love challenges. So, that was a fun challenge.”

Dallas forced two turnovers in the final minute to preserve the victory. Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving added 22 points and Grant Williams added 17 points in the season opener for both teams.

“It was a hall of fame performance like (Doncic) does almost every night,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “He was great. Kyrie wasn’t bad either. So, the two future hall of famers got us.”

Doncic was cleared to play an hour before tipoff after being listed as questionable with a left calf sprain, and the All-Star guard played 32 minutes.

Devin Vassell had 23 points to lead San Antonio. Keldon Johnson added 17 and Wembanyama had 15 points.

Wembanyama scored nine points in the final seven minutes after struggling with foul trouble in the fourth quarter. The rookie was 6 for 9 from the field and had five rebounds and two assists and a block in 23 minutes.

“One of the toughest things for a player is you get into foul trouble,” Popovich said. “You never get in a rhythm and you’re in and out of the game and that sort of thing. So, I thought his maturity showed even at a young age where he came in with the last, I think, seven minutes and just played.”

The Spurs started quickly, outscoring the Mavericks 43-36 in the opening quarter. San Antonio shot 6 for 12 on 3-pointers and shot 62% from the field.

Dallas responded by controlling the second half.

“We just locked down on it,” Dallas rookie center Dereck Lively II said. “We feel like there were a lot of long rebounds (and) a lot of missed opportunities. There was miscommunication (and) a lot of back door cuts and cuts to the rim. I feel as the game went on, we were just making sure we were locked down on that so that we could be able to walk out with a win.”

Wembanyama dazzled in the preseason, but he never battled foul trouble as he did against the Mavericks.

“For me, it was just a matter of being physical,” Williams said. “Make sure he doesn’t get to his spots, making sure that any shot that he takes you challenge and you swipe so you affect the shot even down low. Just playing with great energy and physicality so he feels off balance a little bit.”

And Dallas took advantage.

Wembanyama was forced to exit after picking up his fourth foul with 8:37 remaining in the third quarter on a touch foul while attempting to set a pick on Derrick Jones Jr.

The Mavericks took their first lead 37 seconds later at 73-72 on a layup by Lively.

Lively had 10 points in the third as Dallas outscored San Antonio 32-23.

Wembanyama returned midway through the fourth quarter and quickly scored seven points to electrify the crowd. His first bucket came on an alley-oop that rolled over the rim, and he punctuated the run with a thunderous dunk.

“As I said before, we’re learning. It’s only our first regular season game together,” Wembanyama said. “We’re going to watch film and maybe this happened, but if we notice it on the film, the coaches and ourselves, the players will make whatever it takes to get better.”


Mavericks: Host Brooklyn on Friday.

Spurs: Host Houston on Friday.

Credit: AP

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