TORONTO — When rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama was introduced during pre-game warm-ups at Scotiabank Arena, he received a warm welcome from the sold-out crowd. He thanked them by giving them a night to remember.
Wembanyama had a triple-double to power the San Antonio Spurs to a 122-99 rout of the Toronto Raptors on Monday to snap a seven-game losing skid. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high 10 blocks.
He also had five assists, putting him within range of an exceptionally rare quadruple-double before he was pulled from the game with a Spurs win all but assured.
"I had it as a second thought, yes, but I was playing to win first," said Wembanyama, who also had seven turnovers. "I almost got a quintuple-double with turnovers."
There has only been four quadruple-doubles in NBA history. San Antonio great David Robinson was the last player to achieve the feat, earning one in 1994.
Only eight rookies, including the seven-foot-four Wembamyana, have had 10 blocks in a game. He said that as his season rolls on it's becoming harder for him to get blocks.
"I had to make an extra effort tonight because less and less people go at me," he said. “Yes intimidation is a factor, I can see it out there.”
Devin Vassell had 25 points for the Spurs (11-43), including five three-pointers, and six assists.
Rookie Gradey Dick — selected 12 spots after Wembanyama in last summer's draft — led Toronto (19-35) with 18 points and two rebounds. Centre Kelly Olynyk also came off the bench for 17 points and fellow Canadian RJ Barrett had 13 points and five boards.
"I feel like the most important advice that I got from the vets when I first got here was how there's going to be so many ups and downs throughout the whole season and to obviously enjoy the ups but learn from the downs," said Dick. "This is definitely a down, the way that we came out and played, but at the same time it's a learning experience, obviously for me the most.
"I'm coming in as a new guy, but something that we just need to correct for next time."
Toronto struggled with its shooting on a night when the Spurs were deadly from range.
The Raptors finished with 39.8 per cent on their field goals, including 25.8 from three-point range. San Antonio shot 52.9 per cent on its field-goal attempts, including 36.7 per cent on its threes.
Wembanyama had an immediate impact Monday, blocking Jakob Poeltl's layup attempt on the game's very first shot, then nailing a three-pointer on San Antonio's first possession, before grabbing a rebound on the next defensive sequence.
Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic said that his team came out flat from the opening whistle.
"It was lack of effort. It was lack of intensity. It was lack of focus. All of that from the start of the game," said Rajakovic. "Way too many turnovers leading to easy points and easy scores from the start of the game."
An 11-2 San Antonio run in the second quarter, including five points and two assists from Wembanyama, staked the visitors to a 15-point lead. The Spurs went into the intermission with a 67-50 lead.
San Antonio shot 62.8 per cent on its field goals in the half, including 53.8 per cent from beyond the arc. Toronto could only muster 45.8 per cent field on it field goals, and 25 per cent on three-pointers in the first two quarters.
POPP'S LEARNING TREE — Rajakovic spent seven years with the Spurs organization, serving as a scouting consultant and NBA Summer League assistant coach from 2004-11. Spurs president and head coach Gregg Popovich said that Rajakovic impressed him when he was in San Antonio.
"He's a serious dude. He's a detailed guy. He delves all the way down to the basics. He doesn't miss anything. He doesn't skip any steps," said Popovich pre-game. "He's very confident about what it takes to win and what it takes to make up a team and put a team together and create a culture."
UP NEXT — Former Raptors star Pascal Siakam and the Indiana Pacers visit Toronto on Wednesday, his first game against his former team since he was traded on Jan. 17.
The Spurs continue their road trip with a game in Dallas on Wednesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2024.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press