DALLAS (AP)—J.J. Barea forgot to drink enough water. Other than that, his second NBA start was darn near perfect.
The second-year point guard made nine of 11 shots, including all four 3-pointers he tried, for a career-high 25 points, pacing the Dallas Mavericks to one of the most accurate shooting performances in franchise history and beating the Sacramento Kings 123-102 in their home opener Saturday night.
Imagine how much better it might’ve been if Barea had more fluids in him.
“I’m used to cramping up since high school,” Barea said. “I used to control it better. I’ve got to get back to the old days of drinking more.”
Running low, Barea’s legs began hurting early in the third quarter, forcing him to the bench. He returned in time to hit a 3-pointer that pushed Dallas to 101 points after three quarters, then scooped in a nifty layup early in the fourth. He got a standing ovation when he went to the bench soon after.
“It feels great,” said Barea, who is listed as 6 feet but admits to being an inch or two less. “My teammates, every time I scored, they’d go crazy.”
Howard, who missed the first two games because of a suspension, led Dallas with 27 points. Nowitzki matched Barea’s 9-for-11 performance and had 24 points. He also had seven assists, several to his new little buddy.
“Every time he comes in, he’s like a fresh breeze of energy,” Nowitzki said.
The Mavs finished 45-of-69 for 65.2 percent, just shy of their best-ever mark of 67.7 set in 1983. They were at 68.5 through three quarters.
Barea started because Devin Harris bruised his left thigh in a loss in Atlanta on Friday night. He made his first four shots and had already topped his career high in points with 17 at the half.
While Barea had great touch outside, some of his most impressive baskets came inside. There was a move around 6-foot-7 Francisco Garcia on the way to an early layup, then a second-quarter fast break in which 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.
“He’s played a lot of basketball, wherever he played,” Sacramento’s Kevin Martin said. “But everyone’s in the league for a reason, and he proved tonight why he belongs here.”
Martin led the Kings with 28 points. John Salmons had 27 and Garcia 23, but Sacramento plopped to 0-3 with its most lopsided loss yet—and that’s saying something considering how awful the first two games went.
The Kings haven’t led since going up 2-0 in the opener. New coach Reggie Theus’ club hasn’t even been tied since the opener was 4-4. With Mike Bibby injured and Ron Artest suspended four more games, the only positive on the horizon is that Sacramento doesn’t have to play again until the home opener Tuesday night.
“It’s been a tough road trip,” Theus said.
At least this first half was less embarrassing than the Kings’ 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.
After the game, Stackhouse smiled when asked if Nowitzki really said that.
“I put a little pressure on him,” Stackhouse said, laughing.
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. … With 5:22 left in the first quarter, Barea had outscored Sacramento 10-8.