Victor Wembanyama outduels Chet Holmgren as Spurs upend 2nd-place Thunder

The NBA’s most exciting nascent rivalry lived up to the hype on Thursday as Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren put on a show in San Antonio.

Wembanyama outdueled Holmgren as his Spurs scored a 132-118 upset of the Thunder. He filled up the box score and put his versatile skills on display as he helped ice the game with a pair of deep 3-pointers down the stretch.

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With San Antonio leading 119-13 with 3:30 remaining, Wembanyama pulled up from 28 feet to extend the Spurs’ lead to 122-113.

Two possessions later, Wembanyama faced up Holmgren from the top of the key, then passed the ball to a cutting Devin Vassell. Holmgren followed Vassell, who faced a triple-team at the free-throw line. Vassell then kicked it back out to a wide open Wembanyama beyond the 3-point line.

Wembanyama pulled up again to sink his second 3-pointer in less than 90 seconds, a bucket that extended San Antonio’s lead to 127-118. The 3s from the 7-foot-4 phenom punctuated a late Spurs surge that helped San Antonio turn a 105-103 deficit into a 14-point win over the second-place team in the Western Conference.

Wembanyama paced the Spurs with 28 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and five blocks. He shot 9 of 17 from the field including a remarkable 5-of-7 effort from 3-point distance.

Holmgren countered with 23 points, seven rebounds, five assists and one block. He couldn’t match Wembanyama from long distance on a 1-of-4 night from beyond the arc. His one make from long distance was an early tone-setter in transition over Wembanyama after he pushed the ball up court from the opposing baseline.

Ultimately, Wembanyama came out the clear victor of Thursday’s battle of the 7-foot Rookie of the Year hopefuls.

Wembanyama had plenty of help as the Spurs picked up their 12th win of the season to improve to 12-48. Vassell matched him with 28 points alongside nine assists and two steals. Jeremy Sochan added 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Tre Jones tallied 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds. All four hit three or more 3-pointers while shooting 50% or better from long distance. As a team, the Spurs shot 19 of 39 (48.7%) from 3-point distance on a 52.7% shooting night overall.

Thunder All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led all scorers with 31 points alongside six rebounds and three assists. Jalen Williams added 26 points, six rebounds and three assists. But Oklahoma City couldn’t keep up from long distance on a 9-of-31 (29%) shooting night from beyond the 3-point line. The Thunder dropped to 41-18, a full game behind the first-place Minnesota Timberwolves in the West.

With the Spurs well out of playoff contention, there will be only one more chance this season for Holmgren and Wembanyama to square off. The Spurs and Thunder meet for the fourth and final time on April 10 in Oklahoma City.

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