Mavs Shut Down LeBron to Rout Cavaliers

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks began anew. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers wish they could start over. Jason Terry scored 24 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 15 and the Mavericks, whose NBA title pursuit last season ended with a stunning first-round exit against Golden State, opened 2007-08 with a 92-74 victory over the Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

The Mavericks held a foul-plagued James scoreless in the first half and made an impressive debut in dominating the defending Eastern Conference champions, who are being given little chance of making a return trip to the finals.

Jerry Stackhouse added 17 points for Dallas, which got six 3-pointers from Terry and finished 9-of-18 behind the arc.

James had the worst opening night of his brilliant career. He had 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting and was a non-factor in the Cavaliers' most lopsided home loss since April 5, 2005.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 17 points and 18 rebounds for the Cavs.

Last season, Dallas seemingly had it all: a playoff-tested roster, the league's best record and in Nowitzki, the MVP. Then came the playoffs, and it all meant nothing against the only-small-in-stature Warriors, who stunned the Mavericks in six games.

It was a second straight playoff meltdown for Dallas, which blew a 2-0 lead against Miami in the previous year's finals.

Coach Avery Johnson has already been preaching patience to his players, reminding them of the long haul ahead.

"We're ready for a long season," he said before the game. "That's what it's all about. It's not about one moment or one game. It's about the season."

The Mavericks looked poised to make it another good one as they schooled the Cavs with ball movement, help defense and a go-for-the-throat attitude from the start. Dallas led by 14 after one quarter, 20 at halftime and eventually built a 25-point advantage before the Cavs closed down the stretch.

The Mavericks rolled despite playing without All-Star swingman Josh Howard, serving a two-game suspension for his role in an altercation with Sacramento's Brad Miller in a preseason game.

Dallas was also missing center Erick Dampier (shoulder surgery) and forward Devean George (injured foot).

None of them was needed, as the Mavericks had little trouble with the Cavaliers, who had downplayed a 1-6 exhibition season by saying they would be ready for their opener. They didn't look like they were.

One of the few bright spots for Cleveland fans was a Sasha Pavlovic sighting. A restricted free agent, Pavlovic ended his contract holdout on Tuesday by agreeing to terms on a three-year deal.

However, Cleveland remains without frizzy-haired forward Anderson Varejao, another restricted free agent who is asking for a $9 million per year contract.

Booing, and not Halloween-related booing, ushered the Cavaliers to the locker room when they fell behind 54-34 at halftime.

James was 0-for-4 from the field when he committed his third personal foul and spent the final 6:27 of the second quarter on the bench. Without their superstar, the Cavs briefly cut Dallas' lead to 13 before the Mavericks closed the quarter with a 14-4 run.

Cleveland was still in it late in the third, but Terry drained a 3-pointer and Devin Harris hit one at the horn to give the Mavericks a 78-59 lead entering the fourth.

James arrived in costume a few hours before tipping off his fifth pro season, appropriately dressed as "Business LeBron," one of the four characters he plays in his popular Nike commercials.

James, who filled up his offseason by playing with the U.S. national team and hosting "Saturday Night Live" among other activities, was looking forward to a pregame banner-raising ceremony to honor the Cavs' first conference title.

"It's special to us and special to the fans," he said. "No one can take that away from us."

Shortly after the Cavs were swept by San Antonio, Cleveland coach Mike Brown called Johnson, a close friend, who was able to put things in perspective by reminding him that only two teams made the finals. Brown imitated Johnson's high-pitched Cajun twang as he told of their talk. "After that, I felt better for the rest of the summer," Brown said. ... Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, recently voted off "Dancing With the Stars," was the target of several in-game skits on the arena scoreboard. Cuban was a good sport, laughing and waving at the camera from his seat behind Dallas' bench.

© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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