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Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012
Lakers hold off Nets to give D'Antoni victory in debut
LOS ANGELES — Although Mike D'Antoni still can't jump, pivot or move on his surgically replaced knee with his usual enthusiasm, he felt plenty strong enough to start work with the Los Angeles Lakers.
D'Antoni also knows it's usually quite comfortable to be Kobe Bryant's coach.
Bryant scored six of his 25 points in the final two minutes, and the Lakers hung on for a 95-90 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night in D'Antoni's sideline debut.
Although D'Antoni is still unsteady after knee surgery earlier this month, he coached Los Angeles to a narrow victory that snapped Brooklyn's five-game winning streak. Eight months after leaving the New York Knicks, he seemed thrilled to be in his rightful place on an NBA bench — and to watch his talented new team do its thing.
"With this team, there's no reason not to win every game," D'Antoni said. "That's our goal. It's not, 'Let's get two out of three.' We can win every game we play. . . . 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."
D'Antoni clearly isn't at full strength: He hobbled slowly on the sideline on the rare occasions he left his chair during play in the first half. He moved around with more vigor after halftime, protesting foul calls with his usual theatrical vehemence despite a slight limp in his step.
"I was a little peg-legged, but it was good," D'Antoni said with a laugh. "Adrenalin is a great thing. I'm good, (but) jumping is a thing of the past."
Dwight Howard had 23 points and 15 rebounds despite a horrific 7-for-19 performance at the free-throw line for the Lakers, who have won five of six and moved above .500 since firing Mike Brown. Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace scored 17 points apiece. Gasol contributed 11 rebounds and seven assists as the Lakers wrapped up a tumultuous six-game homestand that began with Brown's unexpected firing 11 days ago.
"We're definitely playing with better flow," Gasol said. "We're playing with more confidence, looser out there."
The Lakers went 4-1 under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, but D'Antoni finally took over the bench nine days after he was hired. Los Angeles largely couldn't play at his favored tempo, but D'Antoni quickly learned the benefits of coaching Bryant, who took over in the final minutes.
Bryant has played for D'Antoni on various U.S. national teams.
"It's the same as it's always been," Bryant said. "He's always very calm, but he still has an undertone edge to him. He's the same D'Antoni. . . . We're just getting more in sync with each other. For the most part, we're doing a pretty good job taking care of the ball."
Brook Lopez scored 23 points and Deron Williams had 22 for the Nets, who missed five of their last six shots in their ninth consecutive loss to the Lakers.
"It was definitely frustrating," Williams said. "We were right there and we battled the whole game. We had control of the game at one point, but we didn't make shots down the stretch. We had plenty of chances to tie it. We were getting the stops we needed, and put them on the free throw line a couple of times, but we just didn't make enough plays down the stretch and we didn't convert."
Knicks 102, Hornets 80
In New Orleans, Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points and the Knicks extended the undermanned Hornets' losing streak to four games.
Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith each added 15 points. Felton scored all of his points on five 3-pointers as New York hit 14 3s as a team.
Tyson Chandler grabbed 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who've won two straight since their first loss of the season and are 8-1 for only the third time in franchise history.
76ers 106, Raptors 98
In Philadelphia, Jason Richardson scored six of his 21 points late in the fourth quarter, Nick Young had 23 off the bench and the 76ers rallied to beat Toronto.
Jrue Holiday had 19 points and 12 assists and Thad Young scored 18 to help the Sixers win their third straight game.
DeMar DeRozan had 24 and Andrea Bargnani scored 22 for the Raptors, who are off to a 3-8 start.