NEW ORLEANS ó Anthony Davis fit right in.
Tim Duncan and the wily San Antonio Spurs were celebrating at the end.
Duncan scored 24 points, Tony Parker hit a huge 3-pointer, and the Spurs opened the season with a 99-95 victory over the New Orleans Hornets in Davisí pro debut Wednesday night.
The top draft pick did his part. Davis scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds, a promising start for the player who spent only one season at Kentucky, leading the Wildcats to the national title and earning player of the year honors,
But the Hornets are still rebuilding. The Spurs have their sights on making another run at a title with their aging roster.
After Davis made two free throws with 1:08 remaining to give New Orleans its final lead, 95-94, the Spurs closed strong. 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, giving him 23 points and putting his team ahead to stay.
Greivis 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 theyíre not ready to give in yet to a team such as the Hornets.
New Orleans is starting over after dealing Chris Paul to the Clippers last year and plummeting to the bottom of the Western Conference. They won the lottery, nabbed Davis with the first pick and also grabbed Duke guard Austin Rivers in the opening round.
Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, was in the starting lineup for the first game, but he didnít have nearly the impact of Davis. Bothered during the preseason by an ailing ankle, the guard connected on just 1 of 9 shots and finished with seven points.
Duncan schooled Davis right away, scoring a couple of quick baskets against the rookie. But school didnít 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. Davis went to the break with 13 points, having knocked down five of eight shots.
San Antonio dominated in the early part of the third quarter, turning the deficit into a seven-point lead. But New Orleans didnít fold, pulling back to a 71-all tie heading to the final period. It was tight the rest of the way.
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 cityís imagination.
Give him time.
The Spurs donít have a lot of time with their thirty-something core ó Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili ó but 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 wasnít able to play because of back spasms.
Notes: Ginobili missed four of eight games in the preseason because of his ailing back. ... The Hornets also were short-handed. G Eric Gordon remains out indefinitely after missing all of training camp with a sore left knee. ... Aminu finished with 17 points and had a couple of highlight-reel dunks.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.