SAN ANTONIO (AP) — San Antonio Spurs rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama was unstoppable with his first NBA victory within reach of his 8-foot wingspan.
Wembanyama made the tying basket with 20 seconds left in regulation, the opening basket in overtime and finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds to help the Spurs beat the Houston Rockets 126-122 on Friday night.
“I really, really love winning,” Wembanyama said. “It’s what I love most in life. So, of course, it felt great. Coming back in the locker room, (coach Gregg Popovich) acknowledged that it was my first-ever NBA win. It just made me proud for a moment, proud of myself. Of course, it’s just one win and we’ve got a whole lot more to come and a whole lot more tough games to come.”
Wembanyama had 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks — two on Jabari Smith Jr. on one late possession — in the second half and overtime. He had four rebounds in overtime to help San Antonio seal the victory.
“That was big time,” Spurs center Zach Collins said. “He was dominant. Great moves. Got his body in him all night.”
Devin Vassell scored 25 points and Keldon Johnson added 20 for the Spurs, who lost to Dallas on Wednesday in Wembanyama’s highly anticipated debut and trailed late in this one before the No. 1 pick helped them pull it out.
Wembanyama’s layup while defended by Smith made it 111-all and his jumper sent San Antonio to a 6-0 run to begin OT.
“It’s tough,” Smith said. “He’s tall, athletic. Just try to do what you can, stay in front, try not to foul.”
Houston center Alperen Sengun scored 25 points, Fred VanVleet added 24 and Jalen Green had 22. The Rockets have dropped their first two games of the season.
The teams tied for the worst record in the Western Conference last season at 22-60, sharing the best lottery odds along with Detroit. The Spurs won it to get the No. 1 pick and Wembanyama, with the Rockets selecting Amen Thompson fourth.
Wembanyama was 7 for 19 from the field, including three resounding dunks. He also had back-to-back blocks on the same possession with two minutes remaining and Houston leading 107-104. Wembanyama met Smith at the rim to block an attempted dunk and then rushed back on the court to block Smith’s floater.
The Spurs bridged the third and fourth quarters on an 8-0 run after falling behind by 10 points. San Antonio committed seven turnovers in the third quarter and was outscored 31-24 in the period.
“We showed some composure and some not so composed,” Popovich said. “That’s a work in progress. The best thing about it was they were persistent. We got better and better as we adjusted to their physicality. The ball moved better, our defense improved a little bit, but we were pretty ordinary for about 2 1/2 to three quarters.”
Wembanyama had five points in the opening three minutes after a slow start in his NBA debut.
Wembanyama made his first field goal attempt, an 11-foot fadeaway jumper over Dillon Brooks on the game’s opening possession. After initially missing the 7-foot-3 forward running behind the defense, Johnson lobbed the ball into a crowd and Wembanyama grabbed it and threw it down.
Wembanyama would score only one more point in the first half as he went 2 for 10 from the field.
While Wembanyama finished with a flourish, it did not stop him from earning his first in-game tirade from Popovich in the fourth quarter.
“I forgot a play,” Wembanyama said, laughing. “Forgot one play that we added today, actually. It’s a rookie mistake. It was 100% legitimate for him to yell at me. I apologized after the game.”
Rockets: At Golden State on Sunday.
Spurs: At L.A. Clippers on Sunday.