LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James hit the tying 3-pointer late in regulation. He led a Lakers lineup of three second-year pros and a rookie making his NBA debut to a 142-136 lead with 55 seconds left overtime.
James was then reminded in spectacular fashion that nothing will be easy in this West Coast chapter of his career.
Patty Mills hit a go-ahead jumper with 6.8 seconds left and the San Antonio Spurs kept the Lakers winless with LeBron, rallying from a six-point deficit in the final minute of OT for a wild 143-142 victory Monday night.
James tied it on a magisterial 3 with 2.4 seconds left in regulation, and he finished his second Lakers home game with 32 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds.
But the superstar missed two free throws with 12.8 seconds to play before Mills coolly put the Spurs ahead. James then missed a step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer, thoroughly deflating Staples Center as the Lakers fell to the first 0-3 start in James’ career since his second season with Cleveland in 2004-05.
After cooling down, LeBron did not seem discouraged by the Lakers’ last-minute failure against a quality opponent — and while Los Angeles was missing suspended starters Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram .
“It’s not” discouraging, James said.
“I know what I got myself into,” he added. “It’s a process. I get it, and we’ll be fine. I didn’t come here thinking we were going to be blazing, storming right out of the gate. It’s a process, and I understand that.”
LaMarcus Aldridge had 37 points and 10 rebounds, and DeMar DeRozan added 32 points and 14 assists before Mills made the biggest shot. The Australian guard did it while playing Tony Parker’s traditional role on a familiar San Antonio play.
“It’s always good when you make shots or make an impact,” Mills said. “Other than that shot, it was a team victory. It was a gutsy win. Everyone participated.”
Kyle Kuzma had 37 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, and Josh Hart added 20 points and 10 rebounds.
James’ dramatic 3 from a full step beyond the arc capped the Lakers’ improbable rally from an eight-point deficit in the final 1:04 of regulation. The Lakers then took a 142-136 lead late in overtime with huge contributions from unsung rookie big man Johnathan Williams, who played important minutes in his NBA debut after JaVale McGee fouled out.
But the Lakers sputtered and the Spurs rallied. Rudy Gay’s 3-pointer cut the Lakers’ lead to 142-141, and James missed his free throws before the jumper by Mills, who had 12 points.
“It’s always fun to play close games and have them be that type of atmosphere, and overly competitive,” Aldridge said. “It was nice to get a close win. It just builds character and makes guys be more confident.”
Spurs: Dante Cunningham had three points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes as a starter. Jakob Poeltl, who started the first two games, didn’t play. … Marco Belinelli scored 15 points in a reserve role for the Spurs, and Rudy Gay had 16 points.
Lakers: Svi Mykhailiuk and Williams made their NBA debuts in the shortened rotation. Mykhailiuk went scoreless in 17 minutes, but he got an assist on Williams’ dunk for his first NBA bucket. Williams finished with eight points.
Lakers coach Luke Walton was infuriated by the officiating which gave 38 free throws to the Spurs and just 26 to Los Angeles, even though the Lakers outscored San Antonio 74-50 in the paint. Walton got a technical foul in the second quarter for protesting a no-call on contact with James, but his postgame complaints were multifold. McGee was fouled out after scoring 16 points, and Ivica Zubac was called for five fouls in less than five minutes. Hart, an aggressive driver to the hoop, wasn’t given a free throw in nearly 39 minutes of action. “I know they’re young, I get that,” an animated Walton said. “But if we’re going to play a certain way, let’s not reward people for flopping 30 feet from the hole on plays that have nothing to do with that possession … and then not reward players that are physically going to the basket and getting hit. It’s not right.”
Ingram and Rondo began their suspensions stemming from their brawl with the Houston Rockets last Saturday. Ingram got a four-game ban for confronting an official and throwing punches, while Rondo got three games for punching and spitting on Chris Paul.
Kuzma and Lonzo Ball were in the starting lineup in their teammates’ absence, and both second-year pros excelled. Kuzma finished one point shy of his career high, while Ball had 14 points, six assists and six rebounds.
“We’ve just got to get over the hump,” Kuzma said. “It’ll be a breath of fresh air when we get our first win. The three teams we’ve played, they’ve all been together for quite some time. That means something.”
Spurs: Host Indiana on Wednesday.
Lakers: At Phoenix on Wednesday.