Prior to the game, with a slight limp in his step, Mike D'Antoni walked slowly and gingerly out of the Lakers' locker room and toward their bench.
D'Antoni finally made his debut on the sideline as the Lakers head coach Tuesday and Kobe Bryant netted 25 points in Los Angeles' 95-90 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Dwight Howard tallied 23 points and 15 rebounds, but was just 7-of-19 from the foul line for the Lakers, who have won five of their last six games and went 4-1 under interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff.
"With this team, there's no reason not to win every game," D'Antoni said. "I feel like we're the best team in the league. We've got the most talent, so they can do what they want. We've just got to keep perfecting things."
Los Angeles began the year 1-4, resulting in the departure of Mike Brown. The Lakers then passed on the opportunity to bring back 11-time NBA champion Phil Jackson and hired D'Antoni last Monday.
D'Antoni was set to debut Sunday night, but decided hours before the game that he was not quite ready to return. He had been on crutches due to knee replacement surgery earlier this month.
D'Antoni ran Los Angeles' practice for the first time Thursday, but wasn't on the bench for the Lakers' 114-102 triumph against the Suns on Friday.
Deron Williams registered 22 points and 10 assists for Brooklyn, which had its five-game winning streak snapped.
"We wish we could have had a few more shots fall in the fourth quarter, but our team laid it all out on the floor," Nets head coach Avery Johnson said.
Williams' jumper and a Kris Humphries free throw -- Howard was called for an off-the-ball foul as William's shot went in -- on the same Nets' possession game them an 84-78 lead midway through the fourth.
Los Angeles, though, closed the game on a 17-6 surge.
Howard, who almost landed with the Nets in an offseason trade, finished off a lob from Pau Gasol with a dunk to tie the score at 86-86 with three minutes left.
Gasol split a pair from the charity stripe and Bryant's running hook along the right baseline put the hosts up by three.
Joe Johnson's runner in transition cut the deficit to 89-88 with 36.5 ticks to play, but Bryant nailed all six of his free throws down the stretch to seal the outcome.
The Lakers had been just 13-of-31 (41.9 percent) from the line prior to Bryant's six straight makes.
Bryant recorded 11 points in the opening frame as Los Angeles led 29-23 going into the second, where Howard poured in 13, but the Nets took a 57-56 edge into the break.
Los Angeles held a 76-73 margin after three.
Bryant finished 8-of-10 from the foul line ... Brooklyn had 26 fastbreak points compared to Los Angeles' seven ... The Lakers shot 47.9 percent (35- of-73) from the field.