Revamped Mavs Stumble in Opener

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Dirk Nowitzki scored 34 points, but was only 10 of 25.

    New Washington coach Flip Saunders was as eager as everyone else to see how Gilbert Arenas would look in his latest return from injury. He had to like the answer.

    Arenas had 29 points and nine assists, helping stake the Wizards to an early lead over the revamped Dallas Mavericks and keeping them ahead throughout the final three quarters on their way to a 102-91 victory Tuesday night.

    Arenas shot 10 of 21 and made 8-of-9 free throws for his most points since Nov. 14, 2007. He played only 13 games that season, then had a total of 26 points in two games last season, all because of knee problems. He's feeling so good now that he's not even wearing a brace.

    "Physically he's as good as you'd expect him to be at this point," Saunders said before the game. "If you're asking me can he get where he wants to on the floor, the answer is yes. He can do all that. Now it's a matter of sustaining it over 82 games."

    Dirk Nowitzki scored 34 points, but was only 10 of 25. He was 12 of 13 from the foul line -- all in the first half. Shawn Marion had 16 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in his Dallas debut, but didn't have any baskets in the middle two quarters.

    Arenas was driving the lane from the start, getting fouled and hitting a pair of free throws on one of Washington's first possessions. He had several nifty passes to Brendan Haywood for dunks, then had his first scoring highlight by dribbling past Dallas guard J.J. Barea, then switching the ball into his left hand and banking in a layup as two taller players came at him.

    He scored seven points during a 9-2 Washington run in the second quarter, and made a tough jumper over 6-foot-11 center Erick Dampier during the third quarter.

    He capped the show midway through the fourth, during a stretch when the Wizards were prying the game open after having seen their lead shrink to one. Arenas grabbed a loose ball, dribbled through traffic and, with three Mavs trailing him, swirled the ball around and scooped in a layup for an 87-77 lead, Washington's biggest yet.

    Caron Butler was Washington's only other starter in double figures with 16 points, but Saunders got plenty from his bench -- 20 points and seven rebounds from Andray Blatche and 19 points, five rebounds and three assists from Randy Foye, making his debut for the Wizards.

    Nowitzki is supposed to be shooting less now that Dallas has a deeper, more versatile roster, but the rotation is shaken with Josh Howard and Tim Thomas recovering from injuries.

    Barea scored 13 points and Jason Terry was 4 of 15 for 12 points. Drew Gooden made only 1 of 6 shots for two points. Jason Kidd had four points, six rebounds and six assists.

    Before tipoff of the 30th season in Dallas history, Marion told the crowd: "We're going to take you on a long journey. Enjoy the ride."