An overtime fightback from the San Antonio Spurs left LeBron James waiting for his first win with the Los Angeles Lakers in a high-scoring thriller at the Staples Center on Monday.
San Antonio ran out 143-142 winners after two late free throw misses from James allowed Patty Mills to drain a jump shot for the Spurs with seven seconds remaining to snatch victory.
Mills’ late winner was the final act of a pulsating battle which saw the Lakers overturn a 128-120 deficit with a minute left in the fourth quarter to force overtime, with James raising the roof with a three-pointer to tie the game.
James had looked poised to lead the Lakers to their first victory of the regular season after they surged into a 141-136 lead with 55 seconds of overtime remaining.
But San Antonio regrouped to come storming back and when James missed two free throws that would have given the Lakers a three-point lead, Mills struck to give the Spurs the win.
The defeat left James reflecting on his first 0-3 start to the season since his rookie NBA year in 2003.
The 33-year-old was able to draw positives from the loss, however.
“I know what I got myself into,” James told reporters. “It’s a process. We’ll be fine. I didn’t come here thinking we were going to be blazing storms right out the gate.
“We’re going to continue to get better. I like the direction we’re going in. Obviously we haven’t got the results or the wins yet, but it’s a long process.”
LaMarcus Aldridge led the scoring for San Antonio with 37 points while DeMar DeRozan added 32.
Kyle Kuzma top scored for the Lakers with 37 points as James finished with 32 points.
Lakers coach Luke Walton said his team could take positives from the game despite the defeat.
“Overall, very pleased with our guys tonight,” Walton said. “That’s three games we’ve had a chance to win now. Obviously it’s about winning and losing at the end of the day. It’s a tough one to take but we’ll be back in the gym tomorrow doing it all over again.”
Elsewhere Monday, reigning NBA Finals champions the Golden State Warriors improved to 3-1 in the Western Conference with a 123-103 demolition of the Phoenix Suns in Oakland.
Stephen Curry led the scoring with 29 points, 18 of his tally coming from three-point range. Kevin Durant added 22 points while Klay Thompson added 16.
Earlier, Nikola Vucevic weighed in with 24 points as the Orlando Magic defeated the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden in an Eastern Conference upset.
Montenegrin centre Vucevic also hauled down 12 rebounds to give Orlando their second win of the season in a 93-90 victory.
Orlando surged into an early 28-19 lead at the end of the first quarter and held a 48-45 lead at half-time.
The Magic kept their noses in front for the entire contest, with Boston unable to take the lead at any stage as Orlando held on.
Four other Orlando players cracked double figures on a night when the scoring was shared around by the visitors.
Boston, tipped as one of the favourites for the Eastern Conference title this season, struggled to get going.
Kyrie Irving finished with 22 points but it was a frustrating evening for the rest of the Celtics line-up with Al Horford restricted to 15 points and Gordon Hayward 11.
The Celtics had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter but Hayward’s three-pointer missed as the buzzer sounded.
In other games on Monday, the Toronto Raptors maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 127-106 blowout over the Charlotte Hornets.
Kemba Walker had 26 points for Charlotte but the Raptors all-round scoring proved too much for the visitors.
Kawhi Leonard led the scoring for Toronto with 22 points, while four other players chipped in with double-digit tallies.
Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points off the bench while Kyle Lowry and Danny Green made 16 points apiece as the Raptors improved to 4-0.