Even in victory, Jason Kidd of the Phoenix Suns was a bit envious of the San Antonio Spurs.
"They never show any fluster or anxiousness whether they're up 10 or down 10," Kidd said after his two late baskets helped the host Suns to a 77-74 victory last night. "They just keep plugging away. They're still the defending champs, so this win doesn't mean anything."
Kidd gave Phoenix its first lead with a 17-foot jumper from the top of the key with 57 seconds remaining, hit another 14 seconds later, and the Suns held on despite a gritty rally by the Spurs.
He got the second basket when teammate Penny Hardaway tipped an inbounds pass from the Spurs' Tim Duncan directly to Kidd. He passed the ball back to Hardaway, got it back and drove to the edge of the lane for the shot that made it 71-67.
On the Spurs' next possession, Avery Johnson missed a layup, Duncan failed to tap it in, and the Suns' Luc Longley rebounded with 33 seconds left. That led to a layup by Tom Gugliotta and a 73-67 lead with 27 seconds to play.
But the defending champions fought back, with David Robinson making a layup and Terry Porter hitting a layup and a three-pointer over the next 22 seconds.
Porter's three-pointer cut the lead to 75-74 with 5.1 seconds to go, but Kidd added two free throws for the final margin.
"When you lose like this it's hard, because you know every little play down the stretch that didn't get done," Robinson said, citing four missed free throws over the final 3 minutes 37 seconds.
The loss denied the Spurs what would have been a franchise-record 4-0 start. The Spurs also won their first three in 1984-85.
LAKERS 105, MAVERICKS 97: Shaquille O'Neal, ejected Saturday night after displaying anger over what he perceived to be rough fouls, responded with 30 points and 20 rebounds for the host Lakers.
The win was the 17th straight for the Lakers against the Mavericks over a span of 4 1/2 years and their 18th in a row at home over Dallas dating from December 1990.
O'Neal, who picked up two technical fouls early in the fourth quarter of his team's 97-82 loss at Portland, resulting in an automatic ejection, took out his wrath on the Mavericks.
The Mavericks began fouling O'Neal intentionally in the late going, and the strategy worked to a degree--he was 6 of 14 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and 10 of 23 in the game.
Michael Finley paced the Mavericks with 29 points, but 22 of those came in the first 18 1/2 minutes.
RAPTORS 109, HORNETS 99: Vince Carter scored 25 points and five others scored in double figures for host Toronto, which has won three straight after losing its season opener. Charlotte, expected to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, has lost two in a row after winning its first two games.
After David Wesley scored 15 of his 23 points in a 17-5 third-quarter run for Charlotte, Carter nailed a key three-pointer to put the Raptors up by five.
Eddie Jones led the Hornets with 26 points.