Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Spurs return home with upset win over Thunder

Wembanyama, Vassell score 28 points to take down OKC
Spurs return home with upset win over Thunder
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After a second straight year of going 1-9 on the annual rodeo road trip, the San Antonio Spurs were welcomed home to the team with the second-best record in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Despite losing the first two matchups by an average of 31 points and returning to the Frost Bank Center on a five-game skid, the Spurs managed to top the Thunder, winning 132-118 on Thursday evening.

Keeping the ball out of harm’s way was key in San Antonio’s 14-point victory as the team finished the night with 12 total turnovers. The Spurs were coming off two games with 43 combined giveaways, making ball control in Thursday night’s contest against one of the top defensive teams in the league a point of emphasis.

“Turnovers have been huge for us. The last game was rough on our team, and me personally,” Spurs guard Tre Jones said, who had a team-high six turnovers in Tuesday’s 114-105 loss to Minnesota. “Knowing that (OKC) likes to pressure the ball, force a lot of turnovers, [and] a top team in the NBA right now, we knew that if we took care of the ball, we’d have a much better chance at winning the game.”

The ball security sparked the Spurs’ incandescent shooting night, cashing in 52.7% of their shots and 48.7% of their threes. The high-efficiency scoring resulted in a season-high 39 assists for the team.

“Taking care of the ball is an easy thing to do,” Jones said. “Easier said than done, but easier than making shots sometimes. Sometimes shots go in and out.”

After climbing out of an early first-quarter hole, the Spurs (12-48) led the entirety of the second and third quarters and took a 98-96 lead entering the fourth. The Thunder (41-18) took over the lead with 10:47 left on the clock after a bank shot from Jalen Williams, seeming like San Antonio would give up another late-game lead.

Though, perhaps the league’s youngest roster through 60 games has learned how to handle the late-game adversity.

 “We didn’t drop our heads there,” Jones said. “That’s something we’ve done in the past. We stayed together, we continued to pound the rock and chip away at things and things went our way down the stretch.”

With the game tied at 107, Spurs guard Devin Vassell hit a 3 as the shot clock expired to put the team back ahead. After an Oklahoma City basket, Victor Wembanyama lobbed the ball to Jeremy Sochan for a reverse layup, making the score 112-109 and forcing the Thunder to call timeout. 

After trading baskets, Wembanyama helped put the game away, hitting two 3s and having a crucial block on Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren before Vassell scored the team’s final five points to ice the game.

“I think we executed better,” coach Gregg Popovich said of the Spurs not letting another game slip away. “Everybody knew what they were doing to a much larger degree than earlier in the year.”

San Antonio had six players in double-figure scoring, led by Vassell and Wembanyama who each had 28, followed by Sochan with 21. Along with his points, Wembanyama filled the rest of the stat sheet with 13 boards, seven assists, five blocks and two steals, becoming the first player in NBA history with 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and five 3-pointers in a game.

“Obviously, he’s not afraid to put himself out there,” Popovich said of Wemby’s late-game shot selection. “He’ll take shots. He’s not worried about if he misses it or what the consequences are or anything like that. He likes those moments.”

The Spurs will next face the Indianapolis Pacers at 6 p.m. Sunday before returning on the road for a three-game stretch.

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About the Contributor
Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor
Luke (he/him) is an English major at UTSA and is set to graduate in the Spring of 2024. This is his fifth semester at The Paisano and his fourth as the Sports Editor. Along with covering UTSA sports and events, Luke also covers high school sports and local events for the San Antonio Express-News and covers the San Antonio Spurs for The Paisano. He has a huge passion for covering sports and giving his opinion on them. Outside of writing and talking about sports, Luke's hobbies include playing basketball, watching movies and all things outdoors.

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