Dennis Schroder drew mild applause when he checked in during the first quarter Saturday. By the fourth quarter of his debut, Nets fans were chanting his name.
Schroder bear-hugged Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama to stop a fast break after Wembanyama elbowed him on the previous possession. While Schroder pleaded his case, fans serenaded him in support during the Nets’ 123-103 victory at Barclays Center.
“I’m glad we got the win. I think that’s most important,” Schroder said. “But of course, appreciation is there. I love that the fans did it. Big time for me.”
Schroder had 15 points and 12 assists in 27 minutes off the bench, becoming the fourth player in franchise history to record a points/assists double-double in his debut. The 12 assists tied Deron Williams for third most in a Nets debut. Schroder had six assists in the first half and reached his 10th in style to end the third quarter.
With four-tenths of a second left, Schroder set up to inbound the ball. Jalen Wilson set a screen for Nic Claxton, who rolled to the rim and slammed home Schroder’s pass right before the buzzer.
“That’s a perfect time for a lob and I just went up,” Claxton said. “It was a great pass and I finished it.”
“He has great vision as a point guard, and for him to execute that at the end of a quarter is huge,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Those are momentum plays.”
After a three-game losing streak, the Nets (21-31) bounced back against the Spurs (10-43). The Nets tied a season high by shooting 56.3% from the field, including a season-high 50.0% on three-pointers (17-for-34)
Six Nets scored in double figures, led by Cam Thomas with 25 points and four assists. Claxton had 20 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
Saturday represented Wembanyama’s return to Barclays Center, where he was drafted No. 1 overall this past June. The 7-4 center drew loud cheers when introduced as a starter and scored 21 points, including 11 in the third after a trio of three-pointers, including a 31-footer.
After his third three-pointer cut the Spurs’ deficit to 69-63, Thomas responded with a three of his own. The shot started a 10-2 run by the Nets to push the lead to 14, and it stayed in double digits the rest of the game.
“He’s extremely talented,” Claxton said of Wembanyama, “He has a really high ceiling. He’s just 19 years old, just still figuring everything out.”
The Nets went small in Schroder’s minutes by putting him in lineups with Thomas and Dennis Smith Jr. Schroder and Ben Simmons didn’t share the court as Vaughn staggered their minutes.
Mikal Bridges and Smith each had 14 points. Simmons added a season-high 13 points, shot 6-for-7, made three steals and had five of the Nets’ 31 assists. It was the fourth time in Simmons’ five games back from injury that the Nets had more than 30 assists. He aggressively looked for his shot and was physical while defending Wembanyama.
“It’s one of those things where it’s just up and down each day,” Simmons said. “But I’m just staying with it. The storm doesn’t last forever. You know, I’m going to get back to where I was. So just staying on it.”
But the night belonged to Schroder, who was acquired from the Raptors on Thursday and returned to Toronto after the game for his son’s birthday on Sunday.
“Everybody in the locker room told me to just be myself and play basketball,” he said. “You know, I’m 11 years in. Just be aggressive, try to find my open teammates, push it in transition, play defense. They made it easy for me, but like I said, I’m glad that we won the game.”