The Lakers debuts of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash were spoiled Tuesday night by a Dallas Mavericks victory of 99-91.
O.J. Mayo had 12 points as the revamped Mavericks pulled off a stunner in their opener, comfortably beating the star-studded Lakers without any help from injured Dirk Nowitzki. Darren Collison scored 17 points, and Brandan Wright added 14.
Kobe Bryant scored 22 points while playing on an injured right foot, but the Lakers opened a season of enormous expectations with a major dud of a performance.
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.
Pau Gasol had 23 points and 13 rebounds 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. 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.
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.
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.
The crowd gave enormous cheers to Howard and Nash during pregame introductions, but scattered boos drifted down to them by the third quarter while the likes of Eddie Curry and Collison scored seemingly easy baskets and padded the Mavericks' lead.
Howard began the night by missing a two-handed dunk, and things didn't get much better for the six-time All-Star who arrived in a trade with Orlando in August. His free throw woes drew boos and sarcastic cheers from Lakers fans, while Curry and Wright easily held their own in the paint against Howard and Gasol.
Dallas steadily increased its halftime lead down the stretch, going up by eight entering the fourth quarter and pushing the lead to 93-77 with a 10-4 run late.
Bryant missed the past week of training camp after straining and bruising his foot in a preseason game. He decided to play after the pregame shootaround _ no surprise to Lakers fans who have watched the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history play through all manner of injuries in recent years.