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Spurs Dominate Knicks As Victor Wembanyama Shines With Career-High 40 Points

San Antonio Spurs (Via NBA/Twitter)

Elated by his first career three-game win streak, which culminated in a dramatic overtime victory, Victor Wembanyama threw the basketball into the stands moments after the San Antonio Spurs outlasted the New York Knicks, 130-126, on Friday night.

A ball boy working the Knicks bench quickly retrieved it from the fan who caught it, recognizing it as an instant valuable piece of memorabilia from an instant classic game.

Wembanyama had a career-high 40 points to go with 20 rebounds in a duel with Knicks’ guard Jalen Brunson, who scored 61 points, the second-highest scoring game in Knicks history behind Carmelo Anthony’s 62 against the Charlotte Bobcats in 2014.

“I’ve never seen so (much) greatness before this season… I’ve just witnessed so much greatness, and I want to be a part of it,” Wembanyama said about facing Brunson, the seventh player to score 60 in a game this season.

“I always wanted to, but more and more seeing that I’m already able to compete with those guys. I’m not near (them), but I’m on the right path. I know it, and I’m going to get there one day soon.”

It’s only the second time in NBA history that one player had a 40-point, 20-rebound game while another had a 60-point contest.

New York Knicks (Via NBA/Twitter)

The other instance came in 1961 when Elgin Baylor scored 63 points, and Wilt Chamberlain had 78 points and 43 rebounds.

Brunson scored 38 points in the second half, tying Patrick Ewing in 1995 for the most points in a half in Knicks history, as he led the Knicks to a 21-point comeback.

He made 25-of-47 shots, the most taken in an NBA game since Kobe Bryant’s famous farewell game in 2016. Brunson’s previous career high was 50 points on Dec. 15 against the Phoenix Suns.

The Knicks, taking advantage of key Spurs defender Jeremy Sochan’s departure due to an ankle injury, repeatedly cleared the floor and let Brunson work in pure isolation. Other times he attacked Wembanyama in pick-and-rolls, hitting jumper after jumper from midrange.

At one point in the third quarter, he ended up 1-on-1 with Wembanyama at the top of the key. He went left, stopped abruptly, and jetted backward as Wembanyama lost position. After making the jumper, he pumped his fist, relishing the moment.

“He’s going to be one of the greatest players this game’s seen,” Brunson said. “Just the way he’s built and what he’s been able to do so far. So I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and it’s definitely tough to get a shot up and in over him.”

Brunson wasn’t in the mood to reflect too much on his performance, frustrated that the Knicks had lost to the team with the worst record in the Western Conference.

Jalen Brunson (Via NBA/Twitter)

He was just 1-of-5 shooting in overtime, and the Spurs double-teamed him at the end of regulation, forcing a pass to Miles McBride, who missed an open look at the buzzer.

Wembanyama scored five points with two rebounds and a steal in overtime. He also had 13 points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter, helping the Spurs fend off Brunson’s charge.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the Brunson-Wembanyama stat lines. “It just shows what (Wembanyama) is going to be when he understands all the physicality that’s coming at him all the time and what to do about it.

Fortunately, he’s also a hell of an instinctive passer, and he’s willing to do what he needs to do in that regard. So he’s pretty special.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau voiced his frustration to the referees throughout the game, unhappy that Brunson only got six free throw attempts despite his numerous drives to the basket.

The Spurs had a 32-12 free throw advantage, with Wembanyama taking 12 and making 10, including two that tied the game at the end of the fourth quarter.

“A foul is a foul,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t know what else you could do, what else you can say. It’s clear as day. It really is that simple.”

When asked if he would spend any time considering that he is now one of just three Knicks to ever score more than 60 points in a game—alongside Anthony and Bernard King, who famously scored 60 points on Christmas Day against the New Jersey Nets in 1984—Brunson was glum: “When I retire.”

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