Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson will remember Wednesday night’s victory over the New York Knicks for two reasons.
The win was the 938th of his career, tying him with his mentor, Red Auerbach, for fourth on the NBA career list. Auerbach was Nelson’s longtime coach on the Boston Celtics.
Equally important was the fact that Nelson’s players dedicated the victory to him the day after he learned that he has prostate cancer.
A Mentor in Red
“This is a very special win for me personally because I had two mentors [as a player],” Nelson said. “One was Jack McMahon, my first coach in the NBA with the Chicago Zephyrs, and the other was Red Auerbach, who I played for and was my general manager at Boston for so long. To tie him is indeed a special evening for me, and I would hope that Red would sign [the game ball].”
Nelson will continue to run the team despite the cancer diagnosis. Nelson said before the game that he will explore his options for treatment as soon as possible and then will determine how much time he will miss.
Michael Finley scored 21 points, Howard Eisley added 17 and Steve Nash 14 as all five of Dallas’ starters scored in double figures.
Dirk Nowitzki had 12 points and 14 rebounds and Davis added 15 points for the Mavericks, who improved to 4-0 against the Eastern Conference.
After the game, the focus was on Nelson and his battle with cancer.
“We love to play for him, and we said congratulations to him after the game,” Nowitzki said.
Marcus Camby had 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Allan Houston added 17 points for New York, which had its three-game winning streak halted.
Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said his team fell into the trap of attempting to match the Mavericks’ long-range shooting. Dallas shot 54.8 percent from the field and outrebounded New York 46-35.
“We tried to jump shoot with them and we’re not as good a jump-shooting team,” Van Gundy said. “We got mauled on the boards. We got broken down on the dribble and didn’t get the appropriate help.”
Glen Rice went scoreless in 25 minutes for the Knicks, missing all six field-goal attempts.
“They did a pretty good job of taking us out of our offense,” Rice said. “They had us off balance a little.”
Dallas has had its problems on defense this season, but the Mavs turned up the effort against New York.
“When you play tough defensively and give them one shot, you have a good chance of winning,” Nash said. “Obviously, we did a good job of that early.”
The Mavericks led by 21 points early in the third quarter, but Houston cut into the deficit with two 3-pointers and another jumper in a 9-2 run that pulled the Knicks to 64-51.
Dallas carried a 70-58 lead into the final quarter, and the Mavericks put the game away with a 9-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Mavericks opened the game with a 22-5 run, hitting 11 of their first 16 shots. The Knicks, who went more than five minutes without scoring in the first quarter, missed 13 of their first 15 and 12 in a row.
Dallas built a 32-11 first-quarter lead and outrebounded New York 17-3 in the opening 12 minutes.
Seven-foot-6 Bradley finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for the Mavs.