Anthony Davis was impressed by Victor Wembanyama after the Los Angeles Lakers almost surrendered a big lead before holding off the San Antonio Spurs, who were inspired by the French rookie sensation.
Despite a big night from Wembanyama, Davis scored 37 points, adding 10 rebounds and four steals, to secure the Lakers a 122-119 victory, extending the Spurs' franchise-record losing streak to 18.
Davis rolled his ankle in the opening seconds but stayed in the game and went on to shoot 10 for 15 from the field and score 24 points in the first half.
Taurean Prince had 17 points and Austin Reaves added 15 to help the Lakers win for the fifth time in six games despite missing LeBron James, who sat out the first of two straight games in San Antonio because of a left calf injury. The two teams will do battle again on Friday.
Wembanyama had 30 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks, but the Spurs have remained winless since Nov. 2. He became the first rookie with 30 points, 10 boards and six blocks in a game since Spurs superstar Tim Duncan in 1998.
"Obviously he is extremely talented," Davis said after the win, per the Los Angeles Times.
"He is a three-level scorer, as we have seen. It was fun playing against him. He is being talked about a lot, from his time overseas into summer league and then obviously now.
"Obviously the team is struggling, but he is playing extremely well. He is able to keep them in games."
Lakers coach Darvin Ham added: "Wembanyama doesn’t stop competing. When the game was hanging in the balance, he made some big plays for them."
San Antonio outscored Los Angeles 45-30 in the final quarter to produce an exciting finish to the game. They trailed by 20 points early in the fourth but had reduced the deficit to 117-116 with 22 seconds remaining.
Ham knows the winners of the NBA Cup must become more ruthless.
"We got to add common sense to our talent," he said. "It's not so much about who we're playing, what their record is.
"It's about us and the way we want to represent ourselves every time we step out on the floor: trying to get better, trying to build winning habits and be consistent at those winning habits. So, we are fortunate to get that W.
"Whenever you can get a win in this league against whoever, you have to be thankful. But that said, there's a lot of things we can take away that we know good damn well we need to get better at.
"Once the momentum got on their side, it seemed like they rolled it to the very end. But we hung in there. We gutted it out.
"Obviously, we are comfortable with the result, with the ‘W,’ but we’ve definitely got to get better at some things, and we will."
Twenty-first double-double of the season pic.twitter.com/hldK2U4qSz— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 14, 2023
Playing without LeBron, the Lakers almost lost Davis too in the early stages, but he stayed in the game to produce a decisive performance.
"Giving my team a chance to win," he said. "I know when I’m on the floor playing, my team has a higher chance of winning than me being out because of my presence defensively and my presence offensively.
"We are trying to win basketball games. I was finding my shot. Of course, being more aggressive.
"But when my teammates are doing a good job, I think it’s easier for me to operate when guys are making their shots."
The Lakers are 15-10 and fifth in the Western Conference standings. This was just their fifth road win in 13 games this season.