Dallas stuns loaded Lakers in opener, 99-91

The Los Angeles Lakers have spent a month together now, and they

still haven’t won a game. They acknowledge it’s a struggle to blend

this new combination of talents into a cohesive team.

The Dallas Mavericks were happy to show them how it’s done in a

stunning season opener.

Darren Collison scored 17 points, Brandan Wright added 14, and

the Mavericks spoiled the Los Angeles debuts of Dwight Howard and

Steve Nash with a 99-91 victory over the Lakers on Tuesday

night.

O.J. Mayo had 12 points as the Mavericks comfortably beat the

star-studded Lakers, pulling away steadily in a drama-free second

half without any help from injured Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas and Los

Angeles both made big offseason moves that upended two contending

teams, yet the Mavericks were much more together than their

high-profile rivals.

”It was very satisfying to be up 16 points against that team,

with all the low expectations (people had) for us,” said Elton

Brand, who had eight points and 11 rebounds in his first game for

Dallas.

While the Mavericks celebrated an energizing win, the Lakers’

superstar newcomers both had debuts to forget.

Howard had 19 points and 10 rebounds while missing 11 of his 14

free throws before fouling out with 2:02 to play. That’s hardly

what he anticipated after arriving in a trade with Orlando last

August, but not much has gone according to plan in the first month

for the Lakers’ starters, who barely played together during their

0-8 preseason due to Kobe Bryant’s nagging injuries and Howard’s

deliberate return from back surgery.

”It’s not an excuse, but it will all come with time,” Howard

said. ”We haven’t had an opportunity to really play together as

much as we want, but we’re going to get it. … We’re going to chip

away, and we’re going to get better.”

Nash managed just seven points and four assists while trying to

balance the Lakers’ new motion offense with his own strengths on

the pick-and-roll – all while getting roundly outplayed by Mavs

newcomer Collison.

”It’s growing pains, and it’s a struggle,” the two-time NBA

MVP said. ”We’re out of sync, and we’re going to probably have

some more moments in games like that.”

Bryant scored 22 points while playing on an injured right foot

for the Lakers, whose loaded lineup produced a largely passionless

second-half effort in front of a sellout crowd expecting to see a

super team capable of contending for the franchise’s 17th

championship – a fact acknowledged by Bryant when he addressed the

fans before the game.

”As you know, we have a lot of expectations this season,”

Bryant said. ”We’re trying to live up to the expectations. We’re

trying to bring another championship back to where it belongs, back

to Los Angeles.”

Instead, the Lakers showed how much work they will have to do to

challenge Miami and the NBA’s best.

”It’s not the way we wanted it to go,” said Pau Gasol, who led

the Lakers with 23 points and 13 rebounds. ”We know it’s not going

to happen for us right away, but we’ve just got to stick with

it.”

Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Rodrigue Beaubois scored 11

points apiece for the Mavericks, who snapped a six-game skid

against the Lakers over the past two seasons.

”It’s a great win,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. ”If you

execute in this league and have talent, you have a chance to win,

and we did that. The Lakers are going to be fine. They’ve got a lot

of new guys and a new system, but we were opportunistic tonight and

got the job done.”

Dallas also contained Howard by using his career-long free-throw

ineptitude against him – hardly a novel strategy, but one that

worked particularly well when combined with Howard’s opening-night

nerves. The Lakers were 12 for 31 altogether from the free-throw

line, including Jordan Hill’s 1-for-6 effort – a major factor in

their inability to close the gap on Dallas in the second half.

”I’ve just got to stop thinking so much and get up there and

make them,” Howard said.

Jae Crowder scored eight points in his NBA debut for the

Mavericks, who are likely to be without Nowitzki for at least six

more weeks while the German superstar recovers from arthroscopic

knee surgery. Dallas also played without new center Chris Kaman,

yet had little trouble matching up with the Lakers down low.

”It was energy and effort tonight for us,” Marion said. ”We

were resilient, we kept coming, and we did what we needed to do to

get a win.”

NOTES: Dallas opened its season on the road for the first time

since 2007. The Mavericks had opened the season against the Lakers

three previous times, losing all three games. … Howard was called

for a flagrant foul in the third quarter for hammering Brand on an

open shot in the lane. … Katy Perry, Russell Brand, Floyd

Mayweather Jr., Adam Levine, Jon Cryer and Los Angeles Galaxy stars

David Beckham and Robbie Keane attended the game.