Los Angeles, CA – The San Antonio Spurs gave Bernie Bickerstaff his first loss as the Lakers' interim head coach, as Danny Green drained a go-ahead 3-pointer with 9.3 seconds remaining to win a tight 84-82 decision over Los Angeles at Staples Center.
Neither team held a lead bigger than five points in the second half, and it almost seemed as if the team with the ball last would come away victorious.
But after Green drained a 3-pointer with Kobe Bryant's hand in his face, the Lakers failed to draw up an effective play during a timeout. Pau Gasol caught the inbounds pass in the right corner and opted to fake a pass to a cutting Bryant. Tim Duncan played off Gasol, who launched an ill-advised 3-pointer that caromed off the rim. Tiago Splitter grabbed the rebound initially, and a fight for the loose ball on the floor killed the remaining time.
"Pau had a wide open shot at the end. We'll take that any day," Bickerstaff said.
Duncan finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks, Tony Parker added 19 points and seven assists and Green netted 11 points for the Spurs, who went 3-1 on their road trip.
"Any road win is always sweet," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said.
Bryant shot an efficient 12-of-19 from the field for 28 points and added eight assists in the setback.
Bickerstaff had been 2-0 since the Lakers fired Mike Brown after five games, and was seemingly keeping the seat warm for Phil Jackson to make a triumphant return to Los Angeles.
But the Lakers surprisingly hired offensive guru Mike D'Antoni in the early hours Monday morning in an effort to get the perennial title contenders back on track.
D'Antoni, recovering from knee surgery, is expected to be in Los Angeles Wednesday, but, according to the Los Angeles Times, will not be on the bench until Sunday against the Rockets, thus missing Friday's game against his former team -- the Suns.
He missed a classic battle between Western Conference powers that fittingly came down to the final possession after featuring 15 lead changes and 11 ties.
Gasol gave the Lakers their final lead by hitting a pair of free throws and nailing a jumper from the right elbow for an 82-79 cushion with 1:03 to play.
Gasol then blocked a driving Splitter, but Duncan scored off the inbounds pass to pull San Antonio within one. Good ball movement gave Metta World Peace a wide open look at a 3-point try, which was slightly off the mark, and Dwight Howard fouled Splitter going after the rebound.
The Spurs called timeout with 19.9 seconds remaining, and, rather than put the ball in the hands of their stars, had Kawhi Leonard dribble at the top of the key and feed Green coming off a screen on the right wing for the eventual game-winner.
"(Popovich) drew up a play for me, which surprised me," Green admitted. "I had to take advantage of it.
Early on, the Lakers answered a 10-0 run by the Spurs with a 14-point spurt of their own. sparking their way to a 24-18 lead after 12 minutes.
Jordan Hill missed a gimme layup at the first-quarter buzzer, but made a jumper late in the first half that gave LA a 43-38 advantage at the break.
The Spurs netted seven of the final eight points of the third, and two buckets by Duncan on the inside resulted in the visitors taking a 60-59 edge.
The Spurs had turned the ball over 20 or more times the previous three games but only had eight giveaways ... The Lakers committed 17 turnovers, six coming from Howard, who finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds ... Gasol also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards ... LA made 14 free throws to San Antonio's seven ... Lakers guard Darius Morris started for the first time in his career due to the injuries to Steve Nash (leg) and Steve Blake (abdominal strain) and scored one points in 21 minutes ... The Spurs have the best record at Staples Center since 1999-2000 (excluding the Lakers and Clippers) with a .680 (34-16) winning percentage.