LOS ANGELES ¬-- Despite nine new players and with starters Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman sidelined with injuries, the Dallas Mavericks were totally undaunted, forging a rousing 99-91 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night in the season opener.
The outcome certainly came as a shock, since not many thought the Mavs had a chance without Nowitzki and Kaman. And certainly those chances appeared slimmer considering the Lakers added Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison to a group that already included Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace.
But the Mavs shot 47.1 percent from the field and turned the ball over just 12 times in sending a message to the rest of the NBA.
“This is just a sign of our capabilities, but it's like everything else,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Once you do it once, you've got to do it again and again and again.”
In playing a near-perfect game, the Mavs did almost everything right in this nationally televised game played before a sellout crowd of 18,997. They kept the crowd out of the game, kept Howard from beating them up down low and kept the Lakers off-balance all night.“We believed, and it starts with coach -- he had us believing,” said Elton Brand, who had eight points and 11 boards in his first game as a Maverick. “He said let's go in there and kick their butts, and we’re like, ‘OK.’
“He had a great game plan for us tonight. We're not good enough to turn it on and off.”
Without Nowitzki and Kaman, the Mavs knew they had to push the tempo and be scrappy. It was the ideal “flip-the-script” game for the Mavs.
“Playing on the road, national TV, the odds stacked against you, it’s a great win for us,” Brand said. “They have a team full of Hall of Famers, and our Hall of Famer is out with a knee injury.”
The Mavs seized control of the game in the second quarter and toted a 48-46 lead into halftime. Darren Collison then opened the third quarter with a pair of buckets, and by the time Vince Carter nailed a jumper the Mavs were nursing a 72-62 lead with 2:50 left in the third.
“We have a locker room full of guys that can play, and we know that because in practice every drill is competitive,” said OJ Mayo, who tallied 12 points. “We just had a total team effort.
“I told y'all, man, we’ve got a good roster.”
Brandan Wright started at center -- his first start in two years -- for the Mavs and contributed 14 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes while being very active on the boards.
“They had all the pressure on them,” Wright said of the Lakers. “A lot of people are picking them to make it to the Finals this year with their additions.
“Nobody really gave us a chance to win the game, and we came out and played hard.”
Collison led the Mavs with 17 points, four assists and three steals, and backup point guard Rodrigue Beaubois added 11 points and five assists in 17 minutes.
“Roddy might have been the key guy in the game,'' Carlisle said. “He went in and kept the tempo going, and then he made timely offensive and defensive plays.
“Tonight I thought he showed what he's capable of doing at the point guard spot within our system. And he and Darren, they're going to cause problems for teams with their speed and their tenacity.”
Shawn Marion also caused the Lakers problems, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds, while Carter added 11 points and four rebounds.
“We did the things that are going to be the staples of any success that we have,” Carlisle said. “We kept the tempo going, we were efficient with the ball and we rebounded as a team.
“Those three things really carried the day tonight.”
A bucket by Brand and a three-point play by Wright gave the Mavs their biggest lead (93-77) with 5:38 left and sent some fans scrambling for the exits.
“If we’re going to beat teams we're going to have to be a scrappy team, and I thought we showed that tonight,” Collison said. “We’re not the biggest team, but it’s not about how big you are.
“It's about how hard you play and how much heart you have”
Gasol led the Lakers with 23 points and 13 rebounds, Bryant scored 22, and Howard finished with 19 points and 10 boards. But it wasn't nearly enough to offset the number the Mavs put on the Lakers.
“It’s a great win,” Carlisle said. “If you execute in this league and have talent, you have a chance to win, and we did that.
“We were opportjhnitic tonight and got the job done. We've got to batten down the hatches and try to get ready for tomorrow.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760