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Dallas stun loaded Lakers in opener, 99-91

LOS ANGELES -- Dwight Howard missed a two-handed dunk on his first shot, and the night never got much better for the Los Angeles Lakers.

When Howard and Steve Nash took their places alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol under the Hollywood spotlight, the Lakers opened a season of enormous expectations with an equally big dud of a performance.

Darren Collison scored 17 points, Brandan Wright added 14, and the Dallas Mavericks spoiled the Lakers debuts of Howard and Steve Nash with a 99-91 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

“It's not the way we wanted it to go,” said 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.”

O.J. Mayo had 12 points as the Mavericks pulled off a stunner in their opener, comfortably beating the star-studded Lakers without any help from injured Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas and Los Angeles both made big moves in the offseason, yet the Mavericks appeared to be much more together than their higher-profile rivals.

“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.”

The Lakers' 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. Nash managed just seven points and four assists with seemingly little to do in the Lakers' new offensive scheme, getting roundly outplayed by Mavs newcomer Collison.

Bryant scored 22 points while playing on an injured right foot for the Lakers, whose loaded lineup followed up its 0-8 preseason with a largely lifeless 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. Dallas steadily pulled away to a 16-point lead in the second half, never allowing any serious runs by their disjointed, disorganized opponents.

Los Angeles' starting five barely played together during the first winless preseason in franchise history, and that lack of familiarity showed on almost every possession. The Lakers lost their opener for just the fourth time in the last 21 years.

“We've got some things we've definitely got to work on, but we'll get better,” said Jordan Hill, who had nine points for Los Angeles. “It's definitely not concerning. This is definitely a good team, but we didn't execute tonight. It's going to take a little while, but we can do 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. Dallas contained Howard by using his free-throw weaknesses against him - hardly a novel strategy, but one that worked particularly well on Howard's opening-night nerves.

The Lakers were 12 for 31 altogether from the free-throw line, a major factor in their inability to close the gap on Dallas in the second half.

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 containing the Lakers down low.

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Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, center, is defended by Dallas Mavericks' Shawn Marion, top, Brandan Wright, right, and O.J. Mayo in the first half of an NBA game in Los Angeles, ...

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