Milwaukee's Damian Lillard drives to the basket while guarded by Brandon Miller of the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA in-season tournament game
Los Angeles (AFP) - Star rookie Victor Wembanyama put on a show, but his San Antonio Spurs slumped to a seventh straight defeat on Friday, with the Sacramento Kings knocking them out of the NBA’s new in-season tournament with a 129-120 triumph.
De’Aaron Fox matched his career high with 43 points, adding eight rebounds and seven assists for the Kings, who weathered a series of San Antonio scoring spurts to seal the win.
After scoring just eight points in a 36-point loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, Wembanyama scored 27 points and pulled down nine rebounds.
Wembanyama impressed with an array of shots that included an alley-oop dunk on which his head threatened to hit the backboard.
Zach Collins scored 28 for the Spurs, who roared to an 18-point lead in the first quarter but couldn’t keep pace in a fourth quarter that saw Fox deliver 14 points as Wembanyama was held to six.
A game of multiple momentum shifts saw the Spurs close within 112-111 midway through the fourth, but the Kings responded with a 7-0 scoring run and held on.
San Antonio's star rookie Victor Wembanyama throws down a dunk in the Spurs' loss to the Sacramento Kings in the NBA in-season tournament
Now 3-9, the Spurs fell to 0-3 in group play in the league’s new Cup-style tournament – out of the running for a quarter-final berth.
In other tournament games on Friday – which also count in the regular-season standings – Zion Williamson scored 26 points and the New Orleans Pelicans withstood a Nikola Jokic triple-double in a 115-110 victory over the NBA champion Denver Nuggets.
Brandon Ingram added 21 points for New Orleans. He and Williamson each made a pair of buckets in an 8-0 scoring run that saw the Pelicans pull away after Denver closed within one point with 4:01 to play.
Jokic scored 26 points, pulled down 16 rebounds and matched his career high with 18 assists.
The Nuggets, still without injured Jamal Murray, never led. But they battled back from a 20-point third-quarter deficit to give themselves a chance in the final period.
Down by three with less than a minute remaining, the Nuggets came up empty on three straight three-point attempts on the same possession and the Pelicans escaped with the win.
In Toronto, Boston guard Derrick White drained a go-ahead three-pointer with 27.5 seconds left as the Celtics held off the hard-charging Raptors 108-105.
Jaylen Brown scored 23 points, Jayson Tatum added 17 and Kristaps Porzingis chipped in 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Celtics, who are 2-0 in tournament play and improved to 10-2 in the regular season standings – still leading the Eastern Conference by one game from the Philadelphia 76ers, who beat the Atlanta Hawks 126-116.
Pascal Siakam and Dennis Schroder scored 23 points apiece for the Raptors. Scottie Barnes had a chance to tie it with 11.4 seconds left but couldn’t get his three-pointer to drop.
In Atlanta, 76ers star Joel Embiid – questionable to start because of a sore hip – scored 32 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Tobias Harris added a season-high 29 points and 10 rebounds and Tyrese Maxey finished with 19 points for Philadelphia, who ended a two-game losing streak.
- Bridges returns -
In Charlotte, Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard scored 27 points to lead seven Bucks players in double figures in a 130-99 victory over the Hornets.
Malik Beasley added 20 points and Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from a one-game injury absence to score 16 points with eight rebounds and nine assists in Milwaukee’s third-straight victory.
The Bucks connected on 22 of 45 three-pointers to withstand a 37-point night from Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball.
Miles Bridges came off the bench for Charlotte and scored 17 points in his first NBA game since April 2022.
Bridges missed all of last season and was suspended 10 games to start this season after pleading no contest in a felony domestic violence incident last year.
The Bucks out-scored the Hornets 38-18 in the fourth quarter, and Lillard said it was important to keep the pressure on. Both teams are 2-0 in tournament play, and scoring margins could come into play in deciding who advances to the knockout stages of the new tournament.
“We had to keep our foot on the gas tonight,” he said. “I think that’s good for our mentality.”