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Dallas struggling early as Clippers slip Mavs to 0-4

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The frown on Dallas Mavericks owner Mark
Cuban's face said it all. The defending Western Conference
champions are still winless.

Cuttino Mobley scored 28 points and the Los Angeles Clippers
beat Dallas 103-85 Wednesday night. The Mavericks, who tied a club
record last season with 60 wins and came within two victories of
their first NBA championship, have opened a season 0-4 for the
first time in the franchise's 27-year history.

Dallas is the first team since the 2001-02 Philadelphia 76ers to
start out with four straight losses after going to the finals.

"We're just not cohesive yet as a team and we're not hitting
our open shots," Cuban said in the quiet locker room. "We just
haven't gotten off to a good start, but there's 78 more games and
that's all that matters. You never like to lose, but I'm not
worried about this team."

This is the first time Dallas has lost four straight games since
Avery Johnson succeeded Don Nelson as coach on March 19, 2005.
Johnson, the reigning NBA coach of the year, entered this season
76-24.

"We are disappointed. It is a tough start for us," Johnson
said. "We aren't playing good defense for long stretches of the
game and we aren't playing good offense. We are just playing in
waves. We are playing 26 minutes of a 48-minute game, and that is
not very good basketball."

Sam Cassell had 21 points and nine assists for the Clippers, who
have won four straight after losing at Phoenix in their opener. Los
Angeles has won six of its last 12 games against Dallas after
losing 17 of the previous 19 meetings. Two of their three losses to
the Mavericks last season were decided by two-point margins.

Jason Terry led Dallas with 23 points. Jerry Stackhouse made his
first start of the season at small forward in place of Josh Howard,
who is expected to be sidelined at least two weeks because of a
sprained left ankle. Stackhouse scored 12 points in 37 minutes.

Dirk Nowitzki had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Dallas. He was
kept on a short leash by the referees during the final 28 minutes
of play, thanks to a technical foul he got with 4:05 left in the
second quarter after complaining that Mobley fouled him while
stripping him of the ball.

"I think we did an excellent job on Nowitzki," Cassell said.
"We crowded him, forced him to take quick shots and put a monkey
wrench in his rhythm."

Down by as many as 14 late in the first quarter, the Clippers
went on a 17-7 run in the third to turn a seven-point halftime
deficit into a 60-57 advantage. They took their first lead, 57-56,
on a 10-foot jumper by Cassell with 7:48 left in the quarter and
never trailed again.

"We did well on the defensive end and it helped our offense,"
Mobley said. "They came out in that first quarter bombing and
moving around. But in the second quarter, we played Clipper
basketball. We played together, got some deflections and got a lot
more in the second half. We made them take tough shots, then we
rebounded the ball and ran it."

Mobley triggered a 12-4 run with a driving layup and 16-foot
bank shot, and Elton Brand capped it with four free throws to give
Los Angeles a 97-83 cushion with 1:54 remaining. Brand finished
with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

"We've got so many offensive threats, so when it's your turn
you've got to heat up -- just like Cat did tonight," Brand said.
"Cat and James Singleton did a great job on Dirk Nowitzki when it
counted. We boxed out and rebounded, came out with some intensity
in the second half, and that really helped."

Terry, who was ejected from Monday's game against Golden State
after getting a flagrant foul for clotheslining Monta Ellis, helped
Dallas open a 30-17 lead late in the opening quarter. But the
Clippers rallied with an 8-0 run in the second quarter and Mobley
drained a 3-pointer from 33 feet away, narrowing the gap to 48-41
with 36 seconds left in the half.

"We started out with our small guards on Mobley and Cassell,
and those guys like to post up regardless of who they're playing,"
Stackhouse said. "So I think they tried to go at those matchups
early and got themselves going. And then the basket seemed pretty
big for those guys tonight. We played a lot of 1-on-1 and didn't
really get the ball moving like we did in the first half, and it
caught up with us."

Game notes
Dallas and Denver (0-3) are the NBA's only winless teams.
Boston won its first game on Wednesday. ... Johnson and Clippers
counterpart Mike Dunleavy both guided a team to the finals in their
first season as head coaches -- Dunleavy doing it with the 1990-91
Lakers. Both have earned NBA coach of the year honors, Dunleavy in
1998-99 with Portland. ... Devean George made his Mavericks debut,
playing five scoreless minutes and shooting 0-for-3. George, signed
as a free agent after spending his first seven NBA seasons with the
Lakers.