NEW ORLEANS — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and those wily San Antonio Spurs showed the kids a thing or two.
No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis fit right in for New Orleans in his pro debut, scoring 21 points with a dazzling variety of offensive moves, but the Spurs came through in the final minute for a 99-95 victory over the Hornets on opening night Wednesday.
Parker hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 49.6 seconds remaining, Duncan tacked on a couple of free throws and the Spurs celebrated at the end, having turned back a franchise that hopes to rebuild around a couple of rookies.
Davis and fellow first-round pick Austin Rivers both started for the Hornets, who fell to the bottom of the Western Conference last season after trading Chris Paul to the Clippers. Rivers struggled in his debut, going 1 of 9 from the field and finishing with just seven points.
Not so for Davis. Even with only one season of college, which he put to good use by leading Kentucky to a national title and earning player of the year honors, he showed no signs of being a tentative rookie.
“He’s only going to get better,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “I love him because he takes losing hard, the way I do. He’s in there feeling like it’s the end of the world. You can’t help but love guys who take it in the heart the way you do.”
Of course, considering how it was at Kentucky, this is going to take some getting used to. Davis and the Wildcats lost only two games last season. He’s halfway to that total with his new team.
“I’m just trying to play the game. Go out there and explore,” Davis said. “If I don’t have shots, look for my teammates. And they were doing a great job of finding me in my sweet spots. All the credit goes to them really.”
He was admittedly nervous before his first real game as a pro, though it didn’t show.
“That’s just how I am,” Davis said. “We can be playing against a high school team, it doesn’t matter. You want to perform well. You get amped up and nervous because you don’t know if you’re going to play well.”
Duncan scored 24 points and Parker added 23 for the Spurs, who trailed 91-87 after Davis hit two free throws with 2:42 remaining. Duncan erased the deficit all by himself, scoring off a drive, then grabbing a pass in the lane from Boris Diaw and powering inside for a dunk, despite getting fouled by Roger Mason. A free throw completed the three-point play and put the Spurs ahead with 1:48 left.
To their credit, the Hornets didn’t fold. Greivis Vasquez tossed up a lob that Davis dunked, putting New Orleans back ahead. Duncan responded, going over Ryan Anderson to tip in a missed shot.
After Davis made two free throws with 1:08 remaining to send New Orleans to its final lead, 95-94, the Spurs took control. San Antonio worked the ball with a series of quick passes until Parker broke free by the top of the arc. He connected with 49.6 seconds left for a go-ahead 3-pointer.
Vasquez missed an open 3, slapping his hands in disgust after the ball bounced off the front of the rim. Duncan grabbed the rebound, was quickly fouled and padded the lead with two free throws. Al-Farouq Aminu took one more 3, but it missed badly. The Spurs dribbled out the clock, showing they’re not ready to give in yet to a team such as the Hornets.
“Their youth and athleticism made it difficult for us,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s a great group of guys, and it’s going to be a fun team to watch. If Timmy doesn’t do what he does, that’s a loss for us.”
Duncan and the Spurs tightened up defensively, and the 15-year veteran just refused to be denied at the offensive end.
“We put in some plays for him,” Popovich said, “but it was just his determination down the stretch that got us the win.”
Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, said an ankle that bothered him during the preseason was just fine. But he played like a rookie, especially in the first half.
“I was thinking too much,” Rivers said. “The second half, I just played. It was my first game. Now I know what to do and what not to do. That won’t happen again.”
Duncan schooled Davis right away, scoring a couple of quick baskets against the rookie. But school didn’t last long. Davis knocked down an 18-foot jumper from the baseline. Then he swished a 16-footer. By the end of his first quarter in the NBA, the kid had nine points and four rebounds, leading the Hornets to a 31-28 lead.
New Orleans stretched its advantage to 50-43 at halftime, but San Antonio dominated the early part of the third quarter to turn the deficit into a seven-point lead. New Orleans fought back, sending the game to the final period tied at 71. It was tight the rest of the way, neither team leading by more than four points.
The crowd of 15,358 was about 2,500 short of a sellout at New Orleans Arena, showing the Davis era has yet to totally capture the city’s imagination.
Give him time.
The Spurs don’t have a lot of time with their 30-something core — Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili — but let’s not forget they had the best record in the West a year ago. San Antonio was knocked off in the conference finals by youthful Oklahoma City and found itself a man down in the opener.
Ginobili wasn’t able to play because of back spasms.
The Hornets couldn’t quite take advantage of his absence.
“It was a great night,” Davis said. “We all went out there and had fun. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but that’s a great Spurs team. We’re going to see them again, and it’s going to be another great game.”
CLIPPERS 101, GRIZZLIES 92
LOS ANGELES — Jamal Crawford scored 29 points in 30 minutes in his first official game with his new team, and the Los Angeles Clippers converted 21 turnovers into 29 points in a victory that extended the Grizzlies’ NBA-record streak of opening-night losses to 12.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, who had 12 assists, were among six Clippers to score in double figures. The Clippers are 20-23 in season openers, 12-17 since moving from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984. The Grizzlies are 2-16 on opening night, 0-12 since the franchise shifted from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001.
The Grizzlies got 25 points from Rudy Gay and 20 from Marc Gasol. Zach Randolph, who missed more than two 2 1-2 months last season after tearing the MCL in his right knee and undergoing surgery, had 15 points and 16 rebounds.
PACERS 90, RAPTORS 88
TORONTO — George Hill scored the go-ahead basket with two seconds left, completing the Pacers’ rally for a season-opening win over the Raptors.
David West scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and Paul George had 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Pacers, who trailed 84-74 with just under six minutes left. Roy Hibbert added 14 points for Indiana.
Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 21 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points and 10 rebounds in his NBA debut. Andrea Bargnani had 16 points, and Jose Calderon added 15 for the Raptors.
BULLS 93, KINGS 87
CHICAGO — Joakim Noah scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Bulls got off to a good start without Derrick Rose, beating the Kings in the season opener.
Richard Hamilton added 19 points, while Carlos Boozer chipped in with 18 points and eight rebounds.
The Bulls are out to show they can get by while their superstar recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and this was promising even if it was a struggle.
Chicago led by 14 after a 10-0 run in the third quarter and hung on in the fourth after the Kings closed within three several times.
76ERS 84, NUGGETS 75
PHILADELPHIA — Spencer Hawes had 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the 76ers to a win over the Nuggets.
Hawes had a crowd of nearly 20,000 fans chanting “Spen-cer Hawes!” in the fourth quarter after he turned back the Nuggets with a string of big baskets and blocked shots. Coming off the bench, Hawes had five blocked shots. Jrue Holiday had 14 and 11 assists, and Dorell Wright scored 14 points.
The Sixers won the opener with center Andrew Bynum out with a bone bruise on his right knee.
Ty Lawson led Denver with 16 points in his first game since signing an $18 million, four-year extension. Andre Iguodala scored 11 points in his first game since the Sixers traded him to Denver in the four-team deal that netted them Bynum.
JAZZ 113, MAVERICKS 94
SALT LAKE CITY — Mo Williams and Marvin Williams each scored 21 points to lead the Jazz to a victory over the Mavericks.
Paul Millsap added 15 rebounds and 13 points. Al Jefferson also had a double-double with 14 rebounds and 12 points.
The score was tied at 70 before Mo Williams hit back-to-back 3-pointers then scored on a driving layup. Marvin Williams followed with his second 3-pointer, putting Utah up 11 points with 2:57 left in the third. The Jazz led by as many as 20.
Darren Collison scored 17 points for the Mavs, who pulled off an upset win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday but couldn’t match Utah’s pace in the second half.
The Jazz held a 44-30 advantage on points in the paint and 61-40 edge in rebounds as Dallas continued to play without 11-time All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki and 7-0 center Chris Kaman.
WARRIORS 87, SUNS 85
PHOENIX — Carl Landry scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and the Golden State Warriors overcame an awful post-contract night by Stephen Curry to beat the Suns in the teams’ season opener.
Curry, who earlier in the day agreed to a four-year, $44 million extension with the Warriors, missed his first 10 shots from the field and wound up 2 of 14 with five points. He missed two free throws with 4.4 seconds left to allow the Suns a chance at a game-winning shot, but Sebastian Telfair’s 3-point attempt came after the buzzer, and misfired anyway.
Goran Dragic had 17 points and Luis Scola added 15 points and 11 rebounds in the Suns’ first game in the post-Steve Nash era.