Webber Sends Dallas a Message

From Associated Press

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, Peja Stojakovic made six three-point baskets and the Sacramento Kings defeated the Mavericks, 123-94, Wednesday night.

"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 his second this season -- and Stojakovic's 23 points, the Kings jumped to a huge early lead in the season's first meeting between the Western Conference's division leaders. It was the Mavericks' worst loss this 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."

The Kings (29-10) still trail the Mavericks (31-6) atop the overall standings, but they have excelled in every high-profile game they've played this season. Sacramento defeated the Lakers on Christmas Day, then beat 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 ended 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 had 16 points and six assists for the Kings, who shot better than 55%.

Sacramento, which beat Dallas in five games in last season's conference semifinals, ended a three-game losing streak to the Mavericks 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 had a six-game winning streak ended.

"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."

Michael Finley missed his first eight shots for Dallas and finished with eight points.

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