NEW YORK – The scoring and passing were impressive, though not what won over the fans in Dennis Schroder's Brooklyn Nets debut.
It was his fiery response to getting hit in the face by Victor Wembanyama that had the crowd chanting his name.
Schroder had 15 points and 12 assists, Cam Thomas scored 25 points and Brooklyn beat the San Antonio Spurs 123-103 on Saturday night, spoiling Wembanyama's return to the arena where he was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
Schroder had the most assists by a Nets player in his debut since James Harden had 14 on Jan. 16, 2021, against Orlando. The chants came after he screamed at an official when there was no foul called when Wembanyama accidentally hit him with his elbow attempting a shot, then wrapped up Wembanyama for a foul to stop play so he could protest some more.
“I’m glad we got the win, I think that’s the most important, but of course the appreciation was there and I love that the fans did it,” Schroder said. “Big-time for me.”
Nic Claxton added 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets, who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Wembanyama scored 21 points, but the 7-foot-3 Frenchman grabbed just four rebounds after managing only one in a loss at Orlando in his last game.
It was his first appearance at Barclays Center since the Spurs took the him with the top pick in June. He has gone on to lead first-year players in scoring (20.3), rebounds (10.1) and steals (1.2) coming into the game, and all NBA players in blocks (3.1), but he'll have to settle for individual success this season.
The Spurs have dropped seven straight and are 10-43, last in the Western Conference, and the 20-year-old Wembanyama said coach Gregg Popovich has talked to him about the difficulty of getting through a fatiguing part of the schedule before the All-Star break arrives next weekend.
“He told me a little bit about it and so it’s not more complicated than that, it’s just hard to do,” Wembanyama said.
The Nets acquired Schroder on Thursday from Toronto for Spencer Dinwiddie, who was waived and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday after clearing waivers and becoming a free agent.
Dinwiddie was the Nets' starting point guard, but Schroder came off the bench and made a quick impact despite limited preparation time with his new team.
“He’s won games and played in high-level games, so for him to be out here on the floor and lead our group tonight, pretty impressive,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said.
Ben Simmons remained in the starting lineup at point guard and finished with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
Keldon Johnson scored 19 points for the Spurs, who fell to 0-3 on a nine-game trip that bridges the All-Star break.
Wembanyama made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to cut Brooklyn's lead to 69-63 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, but the Nets quickly regained control. Thomas made a 3-pointer to start a 10-2 burst that provided a 14-point lead and he scored 12 points in the period before the Nets ended it spectacularly, with Schroder lobbing an inbounds pass with 0.4 seconds remaining from one sideline to the opposite side of the rim for Claxton to slam down at the buzzer and make it 93-75.
The Nets led 33-30 after one quarter and then dominated the second, limiting the Spurs to 18 points on 30% shooting to take a 60-48 lead to the break.
Spurs: Visit Toronto on Monday.
Nets: Host Boston on Tuesday.
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