DALLAS — Purple uniforms, check.Blinged-out bandwagon fans in the stands, check.Any further resemblance, however, to what remains of the Los Angeles Lakers stopped there Tuesday night.On their first visit of the young NBA season, the Lakers looked like a Hollywood makeover gone wrong. An ugly and swollen offense. A sagging defense. And without the injured Kobe Bryant, a giant hole where their contender’s credibility used to be. Here’s how badly the Dallas Mavericks outplayed the Lakers on Tuesday:With three minutes to play in the first half, Dirk Nowitzki scored his first points of the night — and yet the Mavericks still led by 20 points.The team from Lost Angeles never led. The Mavericks were on top by 30 in the third quarter, before coach Rick Carlisle called off the hounds. Beat L-A? Beat L-A? The Mavericks obliged 123-104, but the line to beat the Lakers is going to be a long one until Kobe gets back. Learning how to win without Bryant is paramount, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said, “But first we need to learn to stay within striking distance.“You can’t get blown out and think, ‘Now we need to learn to win.’ No, we need to learn how to play.”For three decades, the Mavericks have used the Lakers franchise as their NBA measuring stick. Better put those rulers away for now, though. The Mavericks are assembling something highly watchable on their own. It quickly subdued the visitors Tuesday even with Nowitzki not getting off to a standard start.Again, newcomer Monta Ellis more than picked up the slack.“He’s just a different kind of weapon,” Carlisle said. “His catch-and-go ability, his speed in transition, his ability to change direction and attack the rim — it’s unique in this league.”How many times during last season’s empty run at the playoffs did the Mavs falter because there was no one to pick up the scoring load from Nowitzki?Dirk finished Tuesday with 11 points, while taking only nine shots. Nine shots! Yet the Mavericks cruised, in large part because Ellis was 11 for 14 from the floor, had nine assists and scored 30 points.“As the games go on,” Carlisle said, “he’s getting a good feel for what we want to do.”No kidding. The Mavericks had 27 field goals at halftime and 21 assists — the kind of thing the Lakers used to do to them.Nobody was rude enough to ask Carlisle whether Nowitzki, the future Hall of Famer, made a petulant scene on the sidelines and in huddles about not getting the basketball enough. Nowitzki, we know, never said a peep.The Mavericks had 35 in the first quarter without him.“It means we’re moving it,” Carlisle said. “We have good balance.”With a visit to Oklahoma City coming up Wednesday night, Carlisle was able to clear the bench and keep nearly all of his starters from logging more than 30 minutes. Seven Mavericks ended up scoring in double figures, including all of the starters, even with the abbreviated playing time. Carlisle, however, chose to tap the brakes. When he was asked whether such an all-round scoring effort was exactly the kind of Mavericks offense he envisioned, the coach abstained from any lavish praise.“I thought we were going to be a team that could score,” Carlisle said. “I thought it would come down to our ability to defend as a team.”A brief Carlisle soliloquy ensued on his team’s defense. “We really scrambled well,” he said. It was a good night, he probably figured, to tap the brakes. The Mavericks had played well, but everyone got the picture Tuesday night. The Lakers just didn’t look like the Lakers. Even familiar face Steve Nash looked different, with his hair trimmed like a Chihuahua. Beat L-A? No Kobe, no problem.But the best makeover show, for now, may well be the Mavericks.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton