LOS ANGELES -- Mike D'Antoni finally made it to the Los Angeles Lakers' bench Tuesday, eight days after he was hired, and he had to enjoy the finish to his first official game on the job.
In a spirited early-season matchup between two teams expected to play deep into the postseason, the Lakers held on for a 95-90 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Kobe Bryant hit two free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining, and Brooklyn's Deron Williams missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game in the closing seconds.
"Well, first off, it's great to be out there," D'Antoni said. "Great to be with the guys, and that's what you coach for. They're a good group that wants to win, and when you do that, it's very good."
The Lakers emerged with their fifth win over their last six games -- all of which occurred after the dismissal of former coach Mike Brown. Los Angeles (6-5) moved over the .500 mark for the first time this season.
The Nets (6-3) saw their five-game winning streak end.
"I'm proud of our guys tonight. We fought through a lot of adversity tonight in so many ways," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "We got off to a tough start, a slow start, but we finally got back to playing our style of basketball."
D'Antoni looked a bit fatigued and was still grimacing from the knee-replacement surgery he underwent two weeks ago.
Unwilling to spend another game watching from the trainer's room, though, he purposely avoided Lakers trainer Gary Vitti all day, and he declared himself fit enough to coach the game.
"I feel good, I'm ready to go," he said.
The Nets weren't willing to roll over for the Lakers in D'Antoni's debut, especially considering how they're still smarting over a controversial summer in which they thought they were closing in on acquiring All-Star center Dwight Howard, only to have Howard eventually land in Los Angeles.
Howard scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, and Bryant finished with a game-high 25 points.
"Kobe was terrific," D'Antoni said.
Brook Lopez had 23 points and Williams added 22 for the Nets, who scored just 33 points in the second half.
"It was a tough loss for us," Williams said. "I thought we battled. They came out and hit us early, so we thought about what we had to do, and we responded."
The Lakers overcame a six-point deficit over the final five minutes to pull away.
"We became more aggressive, started rebounding the ball more and defending," Lakers forward Jordan Hill said, "and it worked out for us."
Said Howard: "We got the win tonight. It was a tough one, but we battled."
The Lakers survived a terrible night at the free-throw line, hitting just 19 of 37 (51.4 percent), with Howard making seven of 19 (36.8 percent).
Los Angeles opened strong, using a tenacious, ball-hawking defense to force bad shots and turnovers en route to a 10-0 lead.
But the Nets quickly climbed within two points, with Lopez and Williams leading the way. For the remainder of the half, neither team led by more than six points. Brooklyn held a 57-56 edge at the break.
The Nets' winning streak was built on the defensive end, their stinginess enabling them to hold four of their previous five opponents under 100 points.
That created an intriguing subplot considering the offensive flow the Lakers are discovering under D'Antoni.
The first half, at least, favored the Lakers' pace, although the Nets seemed perfectly fine to speed it up as well. The Lakers hit 56 percent of their shots, the Nets 51 percent.
Lopez had 17 points to lead Brooklyn in the first half while hitting eight of 12 shots. Williams added 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including three 3-pointers.
Howard had 15 points and seven rebounds at the break, and Bryant had 14 points.
The shooting cooled in the second half, with the Lakers finishing at 47.9 percent and the Nets at 41.5 percent.
NOTES: The Lakers were again without point guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake, and the timetable for their return remains in flux. Blake is out with an abdominal strain, and he will not play until he completes a full practice. The problem is, with the Lakers in the middle of a four-games-in-five-nights stretch, practice time is limited, so Blake could be sidelined at least through the rest of the week. Nash's return is even more murky. He's still recovering from a non-displaced fracture in his left leg, and the Lakers insist they won't rush him back. ... The Nets have lost their past nine meetings with the Lakers. ... Brooklyn held its opponent to fewer than 100 points for the fifth time in the past six games. ... Before D'Antoni stepped in Tuesday, Bernie Bickerstaff went 4-1 as the Lakers' interim coach after taking over for Brown.