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Wembanyama has 26 points and 11 rebounds, Spurs spoil Ball's return to Hornets

San Antonio Spurs Victor Wembanyama - The Canadian Press

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Victor Wembanyama had 26 points and 11 rebounds and the San Antonio Spurs routed Charlotte 135-99 on Friday night, spoiling Hornets star LaMelo Ball’s return from a 20-game absence.

Wembanyama was 9 for 14 from the field, hitting 2 of 3 3-pointers, and had two blocks in 20 minutes. San Antonio had 31 assists in winning consecutive games for just the second time this season.

“They look like they’re beginning to understand how to play with each other,” coach Gregg Popovich said.

Ball had 28 points, five assists and five steals in his first game since spraining his right ankle Nov. 26 at Orlando.

“It’s always good to play basketball, but not like that,” Ball said. “But it was cool to get back out there.”

The Spurs were able to sit their starters for most of the final quarter while building a 36-point lead. San Antonio hosts Chicago on Saturday night

Wembanyama will not play against the Bulls, however, as the Spurs continue to manage his minutes following a sprained ankle Dec. 23 in Dallas.

“We are doing our best to have me on the court as much as we can,” Wembanyama said. “But they want to be smart, and I have to listen to them.”

Terry Rozier added 16 points for the Hornets. While Ball returned, Charlotte is still without Gordon Hayward (strained left calf), P.J. Washington (sprained right foot) and Mark Williams (bruised back).

Ball played without covering up the “LF” tattoo just below his left ear, which had done during games before his injury because NBA rules prohibit exposing commercial logos on players’ bodies. The “LF” initials are short for LaFrance, which is the point guard’s middle name and his new clothing brand.

For San Antonio, Doug McDermott had 14 points, Jeremy Sochan 13 and Devin Vassell 12.

“I just thought that we were pretty solid on both ends of the floor and had good performances by a good number of people,” Popovich said.

A showdown between Wembanyama and Brandon Miller, the top two picks in the NBA draft, fizzed when Miller bruised his lower back after falling headfirst into the basket stanchion two minutes into the second quarter.

Spurs forward Keldon Johnson was assessed a flagrant foul 1 after attempting to disrupt Miller’s dunk attempt. Miller remained on the court for a few minutes before limping off to the locker room.

Wembanyama had consecutive alley-oop dunks followed by a one-handed slam to open the second half. Wembanyama crossed up Nick Richards at the 3-point line, sprinted through the center of the lane and threw down a right-handed dunk to put the Spurs up 75-48 two minutes into the second half.

The Spurs have faced criticism on social media for not getting the ball to Wembanyama more, but that wasn’t an issue against the Hornets.

“Of course, I heard of (the criticism), but it’s never been close to reality,” Wembanyama said. “It’s nothing to worry about. I’m not a conventional player. I needed time to figure out how I want to play and how I need to play for the team. I guess everyone needed time to figure out how to play with me.”


Hornets: At Miami on Sunday night

Spurs: Host Chicago on Saturday night.