Kawhi Leonard, Paul George lead Clippers past Spurs – Orange County Register
LOS ANGELES — Victor Wembenyama used his four-inch advantage against Clippers center Ivica Zubac to send the opening tip ball into the hands of teammate Zach Collins.
The San Antonio Spurs 7-foot-4 rookie sensation followed that by poking the ball away from Russell Westbrook, blocking Ivica Zubac, contesting a 3-point shot by Paul Geroge and getting Robert Covington on a crossover – all within the first two minutes of Sunday’s game — living up to the buzz he had created since being selected with the first pick in the NBA draft.
The Clippers, however, didn’t flinch and when the final buzzer sounded, they had dispersed the hype and quieted the chatter with a convincing 123-83 victory at Crypto.com Arena.
Neither Paul George nor Kawhi Leonard got caught up in the Wemby frenzy. Leonard played his usual game, scoring a quiet 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting, while George finished with 19 points (8 of 17).
George started off strong, with nine points in the first quarter, along with three rebounds, two assists and five steals.
Russell Westbrook added 19 points and eight rebounds and three assists, while Zubac pulled down eight rebounds to go with his 16 points.
Bones Hyland (18), Norman Powell (13) and K.J. Martin (10) also scored in double figures.
And Wembanyama? He finished with 11 points, five rebounds and two assists.
Coach Tyronn Lue didn’t come into the game with his eyes closed. The coaching staff had read the stories and seen the film, and Lue even met Wembenyama while on vacation in France this summer. Still, he knew the Clippers were going to be in for a challenge.
“The league’s never seen a guy like this, and Victor can handle the basketball,” Lue said before the game. “He shoots 3’s, can post up, can pass, and so we got to be physical, but we got to be smart.
“We can’t let him get to a sweet spot, get easy catches. We just got to make sure we’re aware of him all the time.”
Powell said the key to playing your game is to stick with what you know best. Don’t alter the way you play, he said.
But ignoring the hype that has followed Wembenyama from France to the U.S. can be as difficult as ignoring 88 inches of arms and legs in the paint. Yet, the Clippers managed to take Wembenyama out of his game early as he took a seat after the first five minutes.
In his first two NBA games, Wembenyama started slowly but finished strong, posting double figures in both games. He also had 12 rebounds against the Houston Rockets on Friday.
But the teen struggled to find the basket against the Clippers and that second-half burst of energy never gained traction. Robert Covington and Zubac repeatedly forced him into taking jump shots or passing the ball during the first half and the second unit continued to play around him down the stretch.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it’s going to take time for Wembenyama to learn the ins and outs of the NBA.
“He’s got to learn the league. He has never played against any of these guys or with any of these guys on our team,” Popovich said. “It’s just a process. There’s no formula. You just try not to skip any steps and luckily he’s an intelligent, coachable young man and he’ll eventually get there.
“He will be a great player, but he’s got some learning to do first, just like any other player.”
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