DALLAS – Point guard J.J. Barea made the most of his first NBA start, hitting 9 of 11 shots for a career-high 25 points, and leading the Dallas Mavericks past the Sacramento Kings 123-102 in their home opener Saturday night.

The Mavericks had 101 points by the end of the third quarter and threatened the franchise’s record for shooting accuracy. They finished 45-of-69 for 65.2 percent, just shy of their best-ever mark of 67.7 set in 1983.

Josh Howard, who missed the first two games because of a suspension, led Dallas with 27 points. Dirk Nowitzki matched Barea’s 9-for-11 performance and had 24 points.

Barea, who is listed as 6 feet but admits to being a few inches less, started because Devin Harris bruised his left thigh the previous night. He made his first four shots and had already topped his career high in points with 17 at the half.

The second-year guard was slowed by leg cramps early in the third quarter and received a standing ovation when he went to the bench early in the fourth quarter, following a nifty scooping layup. Another highlight came on a fast break in the second quarter, when he tipped a pass to himself, collected it and scored around Brad Miller, drawing a foul against the former All-Star. Miller landed on his back, then stood with hands on hips as he watched a replay on the overhead monitor.

Kevin Martin led Sacramento with 28 points. John Salmons had 27 and Francisco Garcia 23, but the Kings plopped to 0-3 with their most lopsided loss yet – and that’s saying something considering how awful their first two games went.

With Mike Bibby injured and Ron Artest suspended, Sacramento has led once all season: 2-0 in the opener. New coach Reggie Theus’ club hasn’t even been tied since the opener was 4-4.

The only solace in this game was that the first half was less embarrassing than the franchise-worst outing the night before in San Antonio.

Sacramento scored 25 points in the first quarter, topping the 23 it had the first two quarters against the Spurs. The Kings started this game 11-of-16, a quantum leap from the 7-of-36 start down south.

Still, Sacramento was barely competitive. Dallas led by at least 13 the entire second half.

Before their first home game since an embarrassing first-round playoff exit last year, Jerry Stackhouse addressed the fans from midcourt. He said this was the third straight year he’s made a season-opening speech, so he asked Nowitzki if he wanted to say anything.

“He said, ‘Stack, go do your thing. I’ll talk at the championship ceremony,”‘ Stackhouse said, drawing a loud ovation and a big smile from Nowitzki.

Notes: Howard’s suspension was for smacking Miller in the head in a preseason game. They got along just fine this time. … Sacramento had more turnovers (10) than rebounds (8) at halftime. … Dallas scored 73 first-half points, topping last season’s best of 66. The franchise record is 85. … Harris said he hopes to return for Dallas on Monday night at home against Houston. … Howard is wearing a brace on his left wrist. He can’t wait to get it off – so he can go back to wearing two white wristbands. … With 5:22 left in the first quarter, Barea had outscored Sacramento 10-8.

AP-ES-11-03-07 2308EDT


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