Kings hand NBA's best team a 29-point loss

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- With a brilliant triple-double and a
few words of guidance, Chris Webber let the Dallas Mavericks know
just how far they've got to go.

Webber had 29 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists, and Peja
Stojakovic hit six 3-pointers as the Sacramento Kings reminded the
league-leading Mavericks of their place in the NBA's hierarchy with
a 123-94 victory over Dallas on Wednesday night.

The Kings don't have the NBA's best record, but they sure look
like the NBA's best team following their highest-scoring game of
the season. They also showed that the Mavericks' new and improved
defense also might need a few years of work, just like Sacramento's
defense did a few years earlier.

"Everybody's saying they've got great players -- the best power
forward, the best point guard -- but you've still got to come out
and play the game,'' Webber said. "It takes a while to develop
what we've got. You can't just wake up one morning and say you're
going to do something.''

Led by Webber's 16th career triple-double -- and the second of
his spectacular season -- and Stojakovic's 23 points, the Kings
jumped to a huge early lead that demoralized Dallas in the season's
first meeting between the Western Conference's division leaders. It
was the Mavericks' worst loss of the season.

"We just passed a test, that's all,'' Webber said. "We were
confident that we would. We've been through a lot in the last four
or five years. When we get in a situation like this, we come out
calm, confident and ready to go.''

They still trail the Mavericks (31-6) atop the overall
standings, but the Kings (29-10) have excelled in every
high-profile game they've played this season. Sacramento beat the
Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day, then trounced East champion
New Jersey by 36 points last week.

"The level of competition is important,'' said Doug Christie,
who had 18 points and six assists. "You try to play like it's not,
but we were at our best tonight.''

Webber was nearly unstoppable -- from inside and outside, whether
passing or shooting. He closed the third quarter by sprinting
behind Dallas' defense for a dunk off a pass from Keon Clark, and
he returned the favor with an alley-oop to Clark for a two-handed
reverse slam early in the fourth.

With 4 1/2 minutes left, Webber left to a raucous standing ovation
from the crowd at Arco Arena, where Sacramento is 17-2 this season.
Last season, Dallas was the only team to win twice in Sacramento
during the regular season.

"This game doesn't say anything about where we are,'' Dallas
coach Don Nelson said. "We're having a great year. I think it says
more about who they are. We've never said we were better than
Sacramento. I think they're the best team in the league.''

Mike Bibby added 16 points and six assists as the Kings shot
better than 55 percent. Sacramento, which beat Dallas in five games
in last season's conference semifinals, ended a three-game losing
streak to the Mavs in the regular season.

Nick Van Exel scored 20 points in a reserve role for the
Mavericks, who came out flat and never got into the game. Dallas'
six-game winning streak was snapped, despite 15 points and nine
rebounds from Dirk Nowitzki.

"We're not where we thought we were as a team,'' Van Exel said.
"They put a good whupping on us. They let us know we still have a
ways to go.''

Sacramento showed the confidence, steadiness and controlled
explosiveness that develops through years of teamwork -- years that
the Mavericks haven't accumulated yet, which became obvious in last
season's playoffs.

Much has been said about the Mavericks' renewed commitment to
defense, and they've allowed 10 fewer points per game than last
season. But the Kings made a similar commitment two seasons ago,
when they also were a shoot-first team like Dallas.

"We missed our assignments all over the place defensively, and
they made us pay for it,'' Steve Nash said. "I'm surprised. We
should know you can't play a good team like that and miss

Sacramento scored 39 points in the first quarter -- 11 from
Webber, along with two 3-pointers by Stojakovic -- while stopping
Dallas' fast break and limiting the Mavs to tough shots. The Kings
clearly were motivated for the matchup, and the Mavericks couldn't
keep pace.

Michael Finley missed his first eight shots and finished with
eight points, while Nash and Nowitzki couldn't get going.

Game notes
The matchup brought out sports stars from across the
country. All-Pro 49ers receiver Terrell Owens watched from
courtside with Oakland Raiders Charles Woodson and Charlie Garner,
while Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield sat next to season
ticket-holder Greg Vaughn. ... Stojakovic, whose six 3-pointers
were one shy of his career high, played part of the second half
with gauze stuffed in his right nostril. ... Dallas' league-best
road record dropped to 13-4. ... The Kings had a season-high 34


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