Vassell scores 31 and Wembanyama has 19 points and 5 blocks to lead Spurs past Jazz 118-111 – Cache Valley Daily

San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama, left, and Utah Jazz forward John Collins reach for ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 27, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Devin Vassell scored 31 points, Victor Wembanyama had 19 points and five blocks and the San Antonio Spurs ran past the Utah Jazz 118-111 on Wednesday night.

“He’s becoming a real problem for defenses,” Wembanyama said of Vassell. “It’s beautiful to see him evolve like this throughout the year.”

The Spurs, second in the league in assists behind Indiana, had a season-high 40 on 44 field goals. San Antonio also shot 51.8% from the field and were well above .500 from 3-point range until missing their final four attempts and finishing 16 of 33.

“That’s Spurs basketball … and Pop preaches it all the time,” Vassell said of coach Gregg Popovich. “We were knocking down shots today and everybody was sharing it.”

Jeremy Sochan, Julian Champagnie and Malaki Branham all scored 17 points for San Antonio. But it was Vassell who was the catalyst.

“Get downhill, get to my spots, pick them apart. If they’re trapping me, I can hit the short roll or skip or whatever the pass is, and they’ve been knocking down shots,” said Vassell, who had his sixth 30-point game of the season along with six assists.

Popovich was just as happy about Vassell’s defense.

“He was a monster at both ends for us,” Popovich said.

Collin Sexton had 26 points and nine assists, while Lauri Markkanen scored 25 points for the Jazz, who lost their seventh in a row.

The Jazz led just once and trailed by double-digits most of the game.

“I feel like we were a step slow on everything. We weren’t physical enough on offense or defense,” said Markkanen, who played the entire second half. “Once you make a mistake, they can punish you. Every mistake just adds up, so that’s how they get on a run.”

Utah got as close as 115-111 with 23.2 seconds remaining before Tre Jones sealed the win for San Antonio with two free throws and Wembanyama swatted Utah’s next attempt.

“It was a bad choice,” Wembanyama said about Taylor Hendricks trying to dunk on him at the end of the game.

The Spurs are playing some of their best basketball of the season, beating Phoenix 104-102 on Monday without Wembanyama and running their offense at its most efficient against the Jazz.

“Just goes to show you, we’re getting better each day,” Vassell said. “Obviously, we don’t have that many games left but for us to show improvement especially like this is great. Since the All-Star break, we’ve been an almost totally different team.”

Meanwhile, the Jazz (29-44) have the worst record in the league since the All-Star break, when they traded away three rotation regulars. Utah used 12 players in the first quarter, the most this season.

“Just not enough intensity, physicality, and focus to start the game and we dig ourselves a big hole,” Utah coach Will Hardy said. “We had nine turnovers in the first quarter. It’s a combination of sloppiness and some stubbornness at times.”

San Antonio and Wembanyama dominated early, leading by as many as 19 in the first half. And one sequence typified the rookie’s impact.

Wembanyama blocked Markkanen’s layup and then used his long stride to glide downcourt for an alley-oop dunk on the other end. That gave San Antonio a 38-20 lead.

Capped by Markkanen’s 3-pointer, the Jazz used a 17-3 run to get within four points, but the Spurs still led 59-48 at the half.


Spurs: Host the New York Knicks on Friday night.

Jazz: Host the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

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