NEW ORLEANS - If Tim Duncan is the gold standard by which all other NBA power forwards are measured, the San Antonio Spurs' future Hall of Famer gushed over what he saw across the court Wednesday night in New Orleans Hornets' rookie Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
Duncan scored 24 points, including nine of San Antonio's final 12 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Spurs overcame an impressive 21-point effort from Davis to defeat the Hornets 99-95 in New Orleans Arena. While Duncan was perfect down the stretch -- taking the ball to the rim when the Hornets tried unsuccessfully to front him on defense -- he marveled at the offensive skills he did not think the Kentucky all-American had in his arsenal.
Davis scored his first two baskets on mid-range jumpers, made all nine of his foul shots and grabbed seven rebounds in his impressive debut.
"I thought he did excellent," Duncan said of Davis. "He was super active and he made some great shots. He scored in a number of different ways. He was a lot more of a scorer than I even gave him credit for. The kid's got a great future. He's got a lot to learn, but that was one heck of a start."
The Spurs applied the dagger shot with 49 seconds left when Tony Parker, who finished with 23 points, nailed an open three-pointer from the top of the key to put them ahead for good, 97-95. Parker was wide open after Kawhi Leonard, who finished with 19 points, drove and kicked the ball out front.
"I know Pop (Gregg Popovich) was mad at me for taking the three, but I was wide open and I had the confidence to make it," Parker said.
Parker said he could see the raw talent in Davis that one day may allow him to be mentioned in the same breath with Duncan, who has led the Spurs to four NBA titles in 15 seasons.
"He's very talented, and they're going to be very scary in two to three years," Parker said. "I think he's a mix of TD (Tim Duncan) and KG (Kevin Garnett). He's that talented."
The Spurs erased a seven-point halftime deficit with a 21-5 run in the first 7:05 of the third quarter, hitting 7-of-11 shots while holding the Hornets to 1-of-10 shooting and four turnovers. But the Hornets closed the quarter with a 16-7 run of their own to tie the game, 71-71.
Duncan scored seven consecutive points - three inside baskets and a free throw -- to put the Spurs up 94-93 with 1:19 left. Davis answered with two free throws after a hard foul, but that set up Parker for his decisive three-pointer.
Davis was most disappointed that the Hornets seemed to lose their defensive focus in the third quarter after taking a 50-43 halftime lead. But he was buoyed by Duncan's assessment of his rookie debut.
"That's great to hear, from someone of his caliber," Davis said. "He's a great player; a Hall of Famer. To hear that really gives you confidence and shows that all the hard work I've been putting in is paying off and now we're starting to see it. I've got to stay humbled and focused."
NOTES: The lingering right knee injury that sidelined Hornets' shooting guard Eric Gordon for all but nine games last season got even more mysterious before the game when Coach Monty Williams said Gordon would be out "indefinitely." Gordon, who sat out the entire preseason until practicing the previous three days, was told not to speak to reporters. "The way I understand it, he's going to be out indefinitely until we get some more clarity on what's going on." Williams added: "I'm not a doctor. All I can do is go off the information I'm given, and I have to listen to the player." Asked if he has had a "heart-to-heart" with Gordon about his pain level, Williams said: "You don't do that as a coach. The last thing you want your player to think of you is that you're trying to put him in harm's way." ... The Spurs played without All-Star Manu Ginobili (back spasms). ... Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who coached Williams and later added him to his coaching staff, said he recognized the Hornets' average age of 23 years old is a coaching challenge for Williams. "It takes time," Popovich said.