From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and those wily San Antonio Spurs showed the kids a thing or two.No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis fit right in for New Orleans in his pro debut, scoring 21 points with a dazzling variety of offensive moves, but the Spurs came through in the final minute for a 99-95 victory over the Hornets on opening night Wednesday.Parker hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 49.6 seconds remaining, Duncan tacked on a couple of free throws and the Spurs celebrated at the end, having turned back a franchise that hopes to rebuild around a couple of rookies.Davis and fellow first-round pick Austin Rivers both started for the Hornets, who fell to the bottom of the Western Conference last season after trading Chris Paul to the Clippers. Rivers struggled in his debut, going 1 of 9 from the field and finishing with just seven points.Not so for Davis. Even with only one season of college, which he put to good use by leading Kentucky to a national title and earning player of the year honors, he showed no signs of being a tentative rookie."He's only going to get better," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "I love him because he takes losing hard, the way I do. He's in there feeling like it's the end of the world. You can't help but love guys who take it in the heart the way you do."Of course, considering how it was at Kentucky, this is going to take some getting used to. Davis and the Wildcats lost only two games last season. He's halfway to that total with his new team."I'm just trying to play the game. Go out there and explore," Davis said. "If I don't have shots, look for my teammates. And they were doing a great job of finding me in my sweet spots. All the credit goes to them really."He was admittedly nervous before his first real game as a pro, though it didn't show."That's just how I am," Davis said. "We can be playing against a high school team, it doesn't matter. You want to perform well. You get amped up and nervous because you don't know if you're going to play well."Duncan scored 24 points and Parker added 23 for the Spurs, who trailed 91-87 after Davis hit two free throws with 2:42 remaining. Duncan erased the deficit all by himself, scoring off a drive, then grabbing a pass in the lane from Boris Diaw and powering inside for a dunk, despite getting fouled by Roger Mason. A free throw completed the three-point play and put the Spurs ahead with 1:48 left.To their credit, the Hornets didn't fold. Greivis Vasquez tossed up a lob that Davis dunked, putting New Orleans back ahead. Duncan responded, going over Ryan Anderson to tip in a missed shot.After Davis made two free throws with 1:08 remaining to send New Orleans to its final lead, 95-94, the Spurs took control. San Antonio worked the ball with a series of quick passes until Parker broke free by the top of the arc. He connected with 49.6 seconds left for a go-ahead 3-pointer.Vasquez missed an open 3, slapping his hands in disgust after the ball bounced off the front of the rim. Duncan grabbed the rebound, was quickly fouled and padded the lead with two free throws. Al-Farouq Aminu took one more 3, but it missed badly. The Spurs dribbled out the clock, showing they're not ready to give in yet to a team such as the Hornets."Their youth and athleticism made it difficult for us," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "It's a great group of guys, and it's going to be a fun team to watch. If Timmy doesn't do what he does, that's a loss for us."Duncan and the Spurs tightened up defensively, and the 15-year veteran just refused to be denied at the offensive end."We put in some plays for him," Popovich said, "but it was just his determination down the stretch that got us the win."Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, said an ankle that bothered him during the preseason was just fine. But he played like a rookie, especially in the first half."I was thinking too much," Rivers said. "The second half, I just played. It was my first game. Now I know what to do and what not to do. That won't happen again."Duncan schooled Davis right away, scoring a couple of quick baskets against the rookie. But school didn't last long. Davis knocked down an 18-foot jumper from the baseline. Then he swished a 16-footer. By the end of his first quarter in the NBA, the kid had nine points and four rebounds, leading the Hornets to a 31-28 lead.New Orleans stretched its advantage to 50-43 at halftime, but San Antonio dominated the early part of the third quarter to turn the deficit into a seven-point lead. New Orleans fought back, sending the game to the final period tied at 71. It was tight the rest of the way, neither team leading by more than four points.The crowd of 15,358 was about 2,500 short of a sellout at New Orleans Arena, showing the Davis era has yet to totally capture the city's imagination.Give him time.The Spurs don't have a lot of time with their 30-something core -- Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili -- but let's not forget they had the best record in the West a year ago. San Antonio was knocked off in the conference finals by youthful Oklahoma City and found itself a man down in the opener.Ginobili wasn't able to play because of back spasms.The Hornets couldn't quite take advantage of his absence."It was a great night," Davis said. "We all went out there and had fun. It didn't end the way we wanted it to, but that's a great Spurs team. We're going to see them again, and it's going to be another great game."Notes: The Hornets also were short-handed. G Eric Gordon remains out indefinitely after missing all of training camp with a sore left knee. ... Aminu finished with 17 points and had a couple of highlight-reel dunks. ... The teams were even on the boards, each finishing with 43 rebounds. ... Davis had just one blocked shot, one of his big weapons at Kentucky.
OAKLAND – Three things you need to know about the Raiders’ 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night:
1. Back from the brink
The Raiders are still under .500. They face an uphill climb getting back into playoff consideration following a crippling four-game losing streak.
Still. 3-4 is a whole heck of a lot better than the alternative.
“Yeah, 2-5 did not sound good,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “That made our stomach hurt. We wanted to come out here and get a big win. This is a big win. For our team, especially with the adversity we’ve gone through.”
The Raiders looked lost during their downturn, when a loaded offense averaged 13.1 points per game. They fell to 14th in the AFC and last in their division. Perceived strengths proved suspect. Everything was called into question.
If the Raiders were drowning, Thursday was that point in the movie where the hero reappears taking a huge, dramatic breath.
The Raiders are alive again, especially in beating the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs. There’s work ahead to make it more than a really fun night, but Thursday proved their survival instincts are still keen.
“It felt good,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “I wish it would have happened a few weeks ago. We wouldn’t be sitting here like that. You all would have been talking like ‘OK, we’re on a run.' I’m glad to get things going.
“I told them today I was going to go out there and let it rip. I told some other guys to go out there and let it rip. This offense was trying to be too perfect. We had high hopes going into the season when we started, then we hit adversity. We couldn’t find a way to get out of there fast enough. Now we’re getting out of this, but we have to keep it going. One thing we have been doing is we’ve been working as hard as we do every week. It’s starting to pay off.”
2. Dormant volcano erupts
The Raiders offense was horrible four straight games. The season’s first two games proved what a loaded unit can do when functioning well, but those efforts got lost in a wash of bad play.
An MVP-caliber quarterback’s play was openly questioned for the first time. So was a bright young coordinator taking shrapnel for the team’s misgivings. Averaging 13 points per game will make a fan base an angry mob. The offense grossly underperformed, but raw talent didn’t diminish.
Production was hot lava, bubbling underneath the surface. It erupted on Thursday night, with the previously cautious Raiders offense opened up and consistently took yards in chunks.
In doing so, a lost offense may have found an identity, a fallback: The Raiders can flat out sling it.
Quarterback Derek Carr was throwing darts all over the field, completing 29-of-52 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 8.0 yards per pass play and, at times, threw people open or allowed receivers to make a play in tight coverage.
Pass catchers certainly did that. Amari Cooper had 11 catches for 210 and two scores. Tight end Jared Cook had six receptions for 107 yards. Michael Crabtree only had 24 yards, but snagged the game-deciding touchdown.
It felt and looked like the Raiders offense everyone expected each week, finally back on track. That was clear after Carr threw Amari Cooper a touchdown pass the first two drives.
“We struggled to do a lot of things over the last month,” Carr said. “To start fast, again I think that gives life to a team. That’s a sense of hope, which we always have and belief and those kind of things, but to start fast, it always just gives your team a little boost at the beginning that you have to have.”
In previous weeks, the Raiders were wound too tight. They strived for perfection and failed to attain anything close. They just let loose, and went for it. An offense with no TNT blew up, to the tune of six explosive plays.
“We got so many weapons, we got so many explosive athletes on our offense but just in these last four games that we loss we were just so out of whack,” running back Jalen Richard said. “It was little stuff here and there, technical, maybe a missed assignment here and there. Guys were doing their thing, guys were playing hard. We believed the whole game even when we got down a little bit. We pulled through and got the win.”
3. Return of the 2016 Raiders
Last season’s Raiders owned the fourth quarter. They generated seven come-from-behind victories last season thanks to offensive magic and timely defense.
That’s how they erased a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit against Kansas City. They never wavered, even in tough times. The defense provided opportunity. With two minutes remaining, the offense got it done.
Derek Carr orchestrated an 11-play, 85-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Crabtree on the second straight untimed down brought on by defensive penalty.
That moment produced great emotion. It should’ve after completing one of the wildest comebacks in franchise history. The drive itself, however, was clinical.
The Raiders believed they would score. They expected it.
"There was no panic, or anxiety or anything like that,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “We were going to get the job done. There was never, ever any doubt.”
That’s exactly what last year’s Raiders did. On the regular. They couldn’t respond well to adversity in recent games. They found their magic on Thursday night.
In case you were asking, and you shouldn’t have been because this game deserves to be savored a bit longer, it’s December 10.
That’s when the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders play each other again, in case Thursday night wasn’t good enough for you.
And while there are some folks who won’t be happy (those who like the Chiefs or bet the Chiefs), there won’t be a more magnificently bizarre game this NFL season – because these two teams are exactly that.
The Chiefs, who two weeks ago were the best team in football as voted on by the instant punditocracy, made enough mistakes in the last two minutes of Thursday’s 31-30 defeat to lose 47-10.
And the Raiders did the same, capped off by Marshawn Lynch’s gloriously Oaklandish reaction to fellow citizen Marcus Peters’ late hit on Derek Carr – namely, “I got your rules and your respect for officials right here!”
But in the end – the glorious, bizarre, untimed end – the Raiders saved themselves from pre-Halloween doom, the Chiefs reverted to the team you can never fully trust, and the rest of the NFL can only shake its collective neckless head in wonderment at the power of the old American Football League.
Because that, ultimately, is what this was – a game out of time. This was a throwback game, all the way back to the mid- to late-60s, when the Raiders and Chiefs hated each other not out of historical duty but out of genuine solar-generated animosity. When they both played as though their cars were being looted in the parking lot, and when 750-yard combined passing nights were actually not that unusual. They were hell-bent then, and Thursday showed that they still have that bent in their DNA even now.
This was that era, played out in a way that old Raider and Chiefs fans can tell their grandchildren, “Now you’re sitting there scratching your head and all, but I’m telling you that used to happen all the time. You think Marcus Peters was bad? Google Ben Davidson on Len Dawson, little Tad.”
And it ended the only way it could for the good of the rivalry – with Oakland winning, and in the most staggeringly improbable way.
Not because the Raiders are more noble human beings or a superior life form from a time long ago, but because that December 10 game needs to mean something. The Raiders needed to win Thursday because losing meant their playoff hopes would be deservedly dead, and their remaining nine games would be reduced to competitive afterthoughts, and the year would be reduced to wondering why what should have been never came close to happening.
And the Chiefs needed to lose because running away with a division this difficult just seems wrong. There is nothing that says Kansas City isn’t better than Denver, or Oakland or the Fightin’ StubHubs, but it shouldn’t be this easy. The Patriots may have eaten the AFC East and spit the bones into a dumpster long ago, but the AFC West clung harder to its AFL roots than the East ever did.
And Thursday was the evidence required to show that, at least for the Chiefs and Raiders, the old days can be recreated with a keen eye for the most malevolent details and the most bizarre turns of fortune.
Call it nostalgia on crank – seemingly the only thing we have left that can bond the generations in these otherwise mean-spirited days.