The Los Angeles Clippers picked up where they left off in their budding rivalry with the Memphis Grizzlies, claiming a 101-92 home triumph in the season-opener for both teams on Wednesday.
Facing a Grizzlies side they edged out over seven games in the Western Conference first-round playoffs last season, the Clippers prevailed in a scrappy contest, courtesy of a strong fourth quarter.
Chris Paul had a quiet night before emerging with six straight points late in the game to turn a one-point Clippers lead into a 93-88 advantage.
Off-season acquisition Jamal Crawford then brought the victory home in the last three minutes with a laser-like three-pointer and a driving layup that put the Clippers 98-90 ahead.
Crawford wasted little time endearing himself with the home fans on his Clippers debut by recording a game-high 29 points, including 12 in the pivotal fourth.
Rudy Gay led Memphis with 25 points and Marc Gasol added 20 in a game that witnessed more bad blood between the teams.
Physical big men Blake Griffin of Los Angeles and the Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph locked horns throughout the playoff series and the pair again engaged in a series of bruising encounters before each drew technical fouls in the fourth.
Trail Blazers 116, Lakers 106
Dwight Howard’s 33 points and 14 rebounds were not enough for the Lakers in a loss to the inspired Trail Blazers.
Nicolas Batum had 26 points and the Blazers led by as many as 19 in handing the Lakers their second straight loss to open the season. Damian Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the June draft, had 22 points and 11 assists in his NBA debut for Portland.
The Lakers’ troubles were compounded by the loss of guard Steve Nash to what appeared to be a left-knee injury late in the first half.
Nash, acquired by the Lakers this summer, collided with Lillard and limped to the locker room.
Pacers 90, Raptors 88
George Hill scored the go-ahead basket with two seconds left, completing the Pacers’ rally for a season-opening win over the Raptors.
David West scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and Paul George had 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Pacers, who trailed 84-74 with just under six minutes left. Roy Hibbert added 14 points for Indiana.
Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 21 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points and 10 rebounds in his NBA debut. Andrea Bargnani had 16 points and Jose Calderon added 15 for the Raptors.
Spurs 99, Hornets 95
Tim Duncan scored 24 points, Tony Parker hit a huge 3-pointer and the Spurs opened the season with a victory over the Hornets in the debut for top draft pick Anthony Davis.
Davis scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds, a promising start for the player who spent only one year at Kentucky, leading the Wildcats to the national title.
However, the wily Spurs showed the rebuilding Hornets a thing or two.
After Davis made two free throws with 1:08 minutes remaining to give New Orleans its final lead, 95-94, the Spurs closed strong. Parker connected from beyond the arc with 49.6 seconds left, finishing with 23 points.
After Greivis Vasquez missed an open 3, Duncan padded the lead with two fouls shots.
In other NBA play, it was:
‧ Rockets 105, Pistons 96
‧ Bulls 93, Kings 87
‧ 76ers 84, Nuggets 75
‧ Jazz 113, Mavericks 94
‧ Warriors 87, Suns 85