Victor Wembanyama made his first visit to Toronto a memorable one. The French phenom put together a historic stat line — 27 points, 14 rebounds, 10 blocks, 5 assists, and 2 steals — as his San Antonio Spurs routed the Toronto Raptors, 122-99. It was the first point-rebound-block triple-double by a rookie since another Spurs great, David Robinson, achieved it on February 20, 1990.
Not to be outdone (but surely overshadowed), Devin Vassell collected 25 points on 9 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 7 from three.
For Toronto, they were led by......no one in particular. They never led in this game and were never able to muster any kind of a comeback. Gradey Dick continued his excellent play of late, hitting all 4 of his shot attempts, including two triples, on the way to 10 first-quarter points. He led the team with 18 points. Kelly Olynyk had another solid performance off the bench, accumulating 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals.
Tonight, though, was all about one man. There were elements of Linsanity, mixed with the incredulity that accompanied the late Kobe Bryant whenever he was in town.
Considering this was a matchup between a pair of teams that were a combined 48 games under .500, there was an undeniable buzz inside Scotiabank Arena as fans anticipated the only visit of the season of the San Antonio Spurs — and Victor Wembanyama.
To say the Wembanyama made his presence felt immediately would be a gross understatement. On the first play of the game, Jakob Poeltl got a step on Victor and looked to have an easy layup. Only to be blocked by Wembanyama. On the ensuing play, Wembanyama created spaceof his own and hit a three-pointer. On the next offensive possession, Victor had a hockey assist that led to an open 3-pointer by Tre Jones. Immanuel Quickley turned the ball over on the next possession, leading to a fast break that ended with a Victor alley-oop slam. Timeout Raptors. Spurs up 8-0, a mere 80 seconds into the game.
Raptors call a timeout after 80 seconds to just watch a replay of Wemby's first 80 seconds.— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) February 13, 2024
When Wembanyama (mercifully) checked out of the game, the Raptors immediately took advantage and attacked the paint. One first three offensive possessions, Toronto scored at the rim: Poeltl putback, Brown jumper in the paint, and a Gradey transition layup.
The Spurs bench, however, did well to stem the tide when Wemby sat. Toronto had a pair of opportunities to claim its first lead but ultimately couldn’t quite get over the hump. San Antonio led 34-28 after one quarter as the Spurs flipped the script and outscored Toronto 11-4 on fastbreak points.
In the second quarter, Toronto was able to find ways to score around Wembanyama, but couldn’t keep San Antonio from scoring. The Spurs continued to capitalize on Victor’s gravity to generate points. and grew the lead to 47-32.
Similar to the first quarter, when Wembanyama sat in the second quarter, the Raptors looked to attack the rim. However, Toronto wasn’t quite as effective and San Antonio continued picking at Toronto’s leaky defense. The lead grew to 19 points by the time Wembanyama checked in with 2:33 remaining in the second quarter.
Devin Vassell stepped up for the Spurs in the second frame. He hit all four of his three-point attempts, en route to scoring 13 in the quarter.
Victor’s presence in the paint also had a great effect on Barnes. For the first time this season, he was held scoreless in the first half. His four turnovers were also a season-high for the first half. All four turnovers came from pick-and-roll plays where Scottie was trying to find Jakob Poeltl.
San Antonio shot a blistering 63% from the field in the first half, taking a 67-50 lead into the half.
Once again, Wembanyama displayed his generational talent. There was a 1 minute segment of the third quarter that had the entire Scotiabank Arena crowd oohing and aahing. Poeltl attempted to score on a cutting layup but was denied at the rim by Wemby. On the next possession, Poeltl tried a turnaround hook, but it, too, we blocked by Victor. One possession later, Barnes forced his way to the rim, only to be denied by Wembanyama TWICE! For those keeping track, Wembanyama blocked four consecutive shot attempts by the Raptors.
Wemby with back-to-back blocks on Scottie Barnes! pic.twitter.com/l3TV6d5DI3— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) February 13, 2024
San Antonio kept finding success on screen-and-rolls, drive-and-kicks, and pick-and-rolls, consistently finding open shooters. During one stretch, the Spurs scored on nine consecutive possessions, growing the lead to 94-65.
When these teams played earlier this season in San Antonio, the Raptors were able to overcome a 22-point deficit and win in overtime.
There would be no miraculous comeback this time around. Barnes was rendered ineffective by Wemby to the point where he looked disengaged by the fourth quarter. San Antonio kept scoring at will with little to no fight from the home team. Even as the lead crept over 30 points, the fans stayed in their seats because Wembanyama was still playing.
Whether they knew it or not, Wembanyama was on the precipice of history with his stat line. Even as he blocked a shot after a whistle, the crowd reacted. Every dunk he had, assist he dished, and time he ever touched the ball, you could see every fan lean forward in their seat. This will go down as one of the worst losses of the season, but you couldn’t tell that to majority of the home crowd that got their first glimpse of the most hyped prospect since LeBron James.
The Raptors' starting lineup only scored 43 points — just one more point than Wemby and Vassell combined. RJ Barrett led all starters with 13 points but was also a game-worst -30. Immanuel Quickley scored 7 points and missed 10 of his 12 shot attempts. Barnes finished with his worst shooting performance of the season (3 of 15, 20%) and second-lowest point total (7 points).
The only thing standing in the way of the Toronto Raptors and a much-needed All-Star break is a visit from the Indiana Pacers and the much-anticipated return of Pascal Siakam. On Valentine’s Day, no less. Hearts may not be the only thing broken that day!