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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Danny Green hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 9.3 seconds left, Tony Parker scored 19 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat Los Angeles 84-82 Tuesday night in the Lakers’ first loss since firing coach Mike Brown.
After Pau Gasol missed a 3-pointer, Tiago Splitter’s hustle prevented the Lakers from controlling the rebound before the buzzer sounded on Los Angeles’ first game since hiring Mike D’Antoni late Sunday night. Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff ran the team for the third straight game.
Tim Duncan had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who improved the Western Conference’s best record to 7-1 thanks to Green’s third 3-pointer of the night.
Kobe Bryant had 28 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who dropped to 3-5 after committing 17 turnovers on a poor shooting night. Dwight Howard had 13 points and 15 rebounds.
The Lakers found another kind of drama in their first game since the club surprisingly bypassed 11-time NBA champion Phil Jackson to hire D’Antoni, who is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The Lakers’ crowd cheered for Bickerstaff, but never broke out into the “We want Phil!” chants that occurred in their past two games.
Both teams struggled with poor shooting until the final minutes, when Antawn Jamison’s 3-pointer from the corner put the Lakers ahead 78-77 with 2:10 to play. Duncan reclaimed the lead with a jumper, but Gasol hit two free throws with 1:36 left and added an elbow jumper.
Duncan trimmed the lead to one point before Metta World Peace missed an open jumper in the final minute. The Spurs worked the ball to Green out of a timeout, and the guard confidently drained his 3-pointer, accidentally bumping Bryant during his celebration.
The Lakers’ final possession developed poorly, and the 7-foot Gasol had to force up a 3-point attempt.
Despite the loss, several days of upheaval finally abated Tuesday for the Lakers — even though their new coach still isn’t in town. The Lakers haven’t said when D’Antoni will formally take over the team, and Bickerstaff could still be running the bench Friday when the Phoenix Suns visit Staples Center.
And though Jackson has criticized the Lakers’ handling of his candidacy, the players who had been eager to play for the Zen Master seem equally eager to line up for D’Antoni. Bryant and Steve Nash enthusiastically endorsed D’Antoni’s hiring at the morning shootaround, with Bryant downplaying the notion that the Lakers’ defense would suffer during the offense-minded coach’s tenure.
The Lakers played without point guard Steve Blake, who has a minor abdominal strain. Blake had started the Lakers’ last five games in place of Nash, who will be out for another week or more with a small fracture in his leg.
Darius Morris had one point on 0-for-5 shooting in his first career NBA start in Blake’s place, while veteran backup Chris Duhon managed five points. The Lakers played without a point guard down the stretch, with World Peace defending Parker while Bryant largely orchestrated the Lakers’ offense.
While the Lakers wait for a regime change on the bench, they’ve improved the effort that partly led to Brown’s firing — and the Lakers aren’t running Brown’s much-debated, Princeton-based offense, sticking largely to pickup-ball sets on offense since the coach’s departure.
NOTES: The Lakers barely exceeded the 80 points they scored in February 1999 during their lowest-scoring performance ever in their first 146 meetings with the Spurs. … DeJuan Blair scored six points for the Spurs while playing on a bruised left knee. … World Peace celebrated his 33rd birthday. The eccentric forward said he has enjoyed multiple birthday parties over the past few days. … Floyd Mayweather Jr., Minnesota Vikings lineman Matt Kalil and David Beckham attended the game.