See how Anthony Davis fared in his NBA debut

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See how Anthony Davis fared in his NBA debut

From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- 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."Notes: 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. ... The teams were even on the boards, each finishing with 43 rebounds. ... Davis had just one blocked shot, one of his big weapons at Kentucky.

Celtics move into No. 1 spot in East as Cavs get crushed by Spurs

Celtics move into No. 1 spot in East as Cavs get crushed by Spurs

SAN ANTONIO -- The Cavaliers acknowledged having heavy legs, yet there is something far weightier on the minds of the defending NBA champions.

Cleveland is in the midst of one of its worst stretches this season and there is little time to fix it.

Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the ailing Cavs 103-74 on Monday night in a much-anticipated showdown that turned into a major letdown for Cleveland.

"The way we've been struggling, (the Spurs are) the last team that you want to play," said LeBron James, who was fine after taking an elbow to the neck. "A well-oiled machine like this, they exploit everything that you're not doing well at that point in time of the season and right now we're not playing good basketball."

James, who finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes, said he will play Thursday at Chicago.

Cleveland (47-26) dropped its second in a row, set a season low for points and fell a half-game behind Boston (48-26) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Cavaliers have nine games remaining, all against teams in the East, including a visit to Boston on April 5.

James said the standings "always matter," but playing more consistently is far more important and he refused to blame injuries or an arduous schedule for the team's troubles.

"It matters more that we're playing better basketball than where we're at," he said. "If that results in us having the No. 1 seed, the No. 2 seed, 3 or whatever the hell it is, we need to play better basketball. That's what it comes down to."

What Cleveland is seeking, the Spurs have already found.

San Antonio (57-16) is two games behind Golden State (59-14) for the league's best record entering a home game against the Warriors on Wednesday.

The Spurs have won five straight and 8 of 10 after sweeping the season series with the Cavaliers.

"It was a big game, but in the end, it's just one game, and one win," San Antonio guard Tony Parker said. "We're trying to be consistent. We're trying to play the same way every game. It was definitely surprising. Coming off a loss, I thought they would play with a lot more energy, but it can happen. It's a long season. It's just one game and I'm sure they're going to bounce back and use this game as motivation."

LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol added 14 points apiece for the Spurs.

San Antonio led by as many as 33 to the delight of the sold-out crowd, and the Spurs' bench outscored the Cavaliers' reserves 49-24.

"We did a good job coming out early and then keeping our foot on the pedal," Leonard said.

Cleveland, which was already without injured Iman Shumpert, received more bad news Monday morning when it was announced that Kyle Korver will miss at least two more games with a sore left foot.

"You lose Korver and Shumpert off your bench and things tend to change," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. "With those two guys out, we tried some different things and it didn't work. It was not on the bench. It was on me."

Cleveland opted to play its stars rather than rest them, but the trio of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sat out the fourth quarter of the Cav's second lopsided loss in the past two weeks.

Lue said he has considered resting his stars over the team's final nine games, which James is not in favor of.

"Coach is going to have his logic of things, but we need to play," he said.

James exited with 25 seconds remaining in the third after taking an elbow to his neck from David Lee on a rebound. James continually rubbed the area before collapsing after he crossed midcourt. He remained on the floor for about a minute before walking unassisted to the bench.

James left for the locker room early in the fourth quarter during a timeout, but said afterward he is fine.

EXTRA SHOOTING

Irving returned to the court for about 15 minutes following the loss to work on his jump shot. The star guard had eight points and two assists in 26 minutes. He finished 4 for 13 from the field and missed his two 3-point attempts.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland completed its schedule against the West, finishing 16-14. In addition to losing to the Spurs by 29 points, the Cavaliers lost by 35 to Golden State and 30 to the Los Angeles Clippers . . . James needs 24 points to pass Shaquille O'Neal for seventh overall in career scoring. O'Neal has 28,596 career points . . . The Cavaliers averaged 116.3 points in their previous four games.

Spurs: San Antonio is holding opponents under 100 points per game for the 22nd straight season . . . Danny Green tied his season high with four blocked shots . . . Leonard has scored in double figures in 100 straight games.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: At the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.

Spurs: Host the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.

Bertrand: Raptors a 'scary team' in the Eastern Conference

Bertrand: Raptors a 'scary team' in the Eastern Conference

Mike Felger and Marc Bertrand talk about the Celtics clinching the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference and other potential threats for the C's.