Victor Wembanyama scored 18 points as the San Antonio Spurs staged a dramatic comeback to snatch a last-gasp 115-114 victory over Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
San Antonio, coming off a brutal 40-point mauling by the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, looked to be heading for another heavy defeat after Phoenix cruised into a 20-point lead early in the third quarter.
But a thrilling duel in Phoenix was turned on its head by San Antonio in the fourth quarter, who outscored the Suns 33-19 in the final frame to secure victory.
French prodigy Wembanyama, the No.1 NBA Draft pick, played a crucial role in the comeback, with a jump shot from 15 feet making it a three-point game with 49 seconds left on the clock.
The 7ft 4in (2.24m) tall teenager then tipped in a dunk to make it a one-point game with seven seconds remaining.
The decisive play however came from forward Keldon Johnson, who wrestled the ball away from a stunned Durant before driving to the basket for a layup that handed San Antonio their first lead of the game with just two seconds remaining.
There was still time for Durant to launch an attempted buzzer-beater, but his shot missed to leave San Antonio celebrating their first road win of the season.
“It wasn’t our prettiest game but we’re learning every day and we’re on the right path,” the 19-year-old Wembanyama told broadcaster TNT after the win.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich saluted his team’s ability to keep grinding away in search of a victory.
“We made a gazillion mistakes — but it’s a game of mistakes. And so does every team,” Popovich said.
“But we just kept playing and that’s the best thing about the group. I was really proud of them.”
‘Eager to sacrifice’
Wembanyama was one of five San Antonio players who finished in double figures.
Johnson led the Spurs scoring with 27 points while Wembanyama also had eight rebounds and four blocks.
The youngster from Paris revealed he had been determined not to be overawed by lining up against one of his NBA idols in Durant, who finished with 26 points to lead the Phoenix scoring.
“I mean KD, he’s just like in the highlights,” Wembanyama said of Durant.
“Sometimes I want to think like ‘This is a guy I’ve watched for 10 years, like my idol’. But I’ve got to lock in because I know he’s going to try and step on me the whole game. So I don’t care he’s my idol.”
Durant lamented conceding the late turnover from Johnson that ultimately cost Phoenix the win.
“It just happened so fast,” Durant said. “I should have held on to it.”
Wembanyama, who arrived in the NBA declaring he hoped to help San Antonio become championship contenders once again, added that the team’s transformation would require patience.
“How patient I am? As patient as we need to be. I’m new here,” he said. “I don’t know yet what it takes to win a championship but I’m eager to find out and make the sacrifices.
“The good thing is I have total trust in my organisation and my coach so you know, it’s going to take time.”
San Antonio’s win in Phoenix was one of three games in the NBA on Tuesday.
In Los Angeles, the Clippers hosted the Orlando Magic with new recruit James Harden in the building following his blockbuster trade from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Television footage showed Harden meeting his new team-mates in the locker room ahead of the clash, which the Clippers went on to win 118-102.
In the day’s other game, the New York Knicks outgunned the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road with Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson scoring 19 points apiece in a 109-91 victory.
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