PHOENIX (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs were flailing in the fourth quarter Thursday night, struggling to find their footing after the Phoenix Suns erased a 27-point lead and threatened to finish an epic comeback victory.
Instead, Victor Wembanyama took over.
It’s probably not the last time that will happen.
The 19-year-old rookie scored a season-high 38 points, Zach Collins added 19 and the Spurs held off Phoenix 132-121 on Thursday night.
The Suns erased a 27-point deficit, tying it at 116 with 4:21 left on Keita Bates-Diop’s 3-pointer, but the Spurs responding by scoring the next 12 points, including 10 from the precocious Wembanyama.
“Someone’s got to do it,” Wembanyama said. “Tomorrow it might be one of my teammates.”
In just his fifth NBA game, Wembanyama produced a handful of highlight plays, including flying down the lane for a dunk in the second quarter. The 7-foot-4 Frenchman shot 15 of 26 from the field and had 10 rebounds.
“He’s a multi-faceted player — he’ll pass to the open guy,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s got confidence in himself. He made some plays that were unbelievable. That combination is pretty good.”
But it was his poise down the stretch that might have been most impressive. The 19-year-old forward hit a 3-pointer, made three free throws, dunked and hit an 18-foot jumper during the decisive run.
“Every game, we try to find the sweet spot where we need to hurt them,” Wembanyama said. “Today it might be this way, tomorrow it might be someone else. It’s how great teams work.”
Phoenix’s Devin Booker returned from a sprained ankle and nearly had a triple double with 31 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds. But it wasn’t enough for the Suns, who had 14 turnovers. Kevin Durant had 28 points.
It was the second time in three days the Spurs beat the Suns in Phoenix. San Antonio shocked Phoenix 115-114 on Tuesday night, erasing a 20-point deficit and scoring the winning basket after Keldon Johnson stole the ball from Durant in the final seconds and made a contested layup with 1.2 seconds left.
On Thursday, it looked as if San Antonio would win in a blowout.
The Spurs led 13-0 after the Suns missed their first five shots and never trailed. San Antonio pushed its advantage to 27 points midway through the second quarter, taking advantage of sloppy Phoenix play on both ends of the floor.
The Spurs led 75-55 at the break after Wembanyama hit back-to-back 3s late in the second quarter.
“The NBA’s got the greatest athletes on Earth,” Wembanyama said. “But so far, it’s working out pretty well.”
Booker made a 3-pointer that cut it to 14 points going into the fourth quarter. The Suns continued their methodical push throughout the fourth Bates-Diop’s dunk on an assist from Booker cut it to 111-108 with 6:04 left.
“We came out and fought in the second half,” Booker said. ”Now we’re going to try and put two halves together so we can play a complete game.”
Spurs: Host Toronto on Sunday.
Suns: At Philadelphia on Saturday.
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