There was no question who the focus of the game was going into things.
Victor Wembanyama — the consensus rookie of the year, assuming he hits the league’s new minimum games-played requirement — was the drawing card for not just a North American audience, but a worldwide audience that was able to take in Sunday afternoon’s tilt between the Raptors and San Antonio Spurs.
More than 132 countries, according to The Associated Press, took this one in, no doubt drawn by the hype surrounding the 7-foot-4 Frenchman who has turned the basketball world on its ear in the five short games he has played thus far in the NBA.
The Raptors, though, somehow managed to spoil the party for those hoping to celebrate along with the young rookie.
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They didn’t make it easy on themselves, coming out like they had just rolled out of bed for the earlier-than-usual tipoff.
Down 19 after a half and by as many as 22 earlier in the second quarter, the Raptors needed to win the final quarter by 15 just to force overtime, where they pulled away for a 123-116 win.
Wembanyama came as advertised, blocking shots mere mortals have no chance of even getting to, not to mention his smooth shooting stroke, which took him to a 20-point night to go along with his nine rebounds and four assists and five blocks.
Wembanyama looked every bit the phenom — or unicorn — you have heard about, but once the Raptors got their heads into this game (a tape of Darko Rajakovic’s halftime speech would be entertaining), it wasn’t Wembanyama you found yourself watching as much as Scottie Barnes, who took this game over in the fourth quarter to give the Raptors a chance at the win.
Barnes finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, 19 of those points in the fourth quarter.
And right there with him in terms of impact was Anunoby, who hounded Wembanyama all afternoon while putting up a career-best seven three-pointers on his way to a 24-point, seven-rebound game.
The Raptors turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, but committed just three more in the second, cleaning up their miscues and finding the energy level that was missing in the first half to get back into this one.
The Raptors will now have a few days to get ready for the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.