Nelson joins Wilkens, Riley as 1,000-game winners


DALLAS (AP) -- Don Nelson played down his latest coaching

Nelson became the third coach in NBA history to win 1,000 games, getting a season-high 35 points from Dirk Nowitzki in the Dallas Mavericks' 113-97 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.

Nelson's record improved to 1,000-790 as he joined Lenny Wilkens (1,242) and Pat Riley (1,054) as the only coaches to reach 1,000 victories in league history.

"Anytime you go through these numbers things, it makes a lot of news, but I don't think numbers are what we're after in this business," Nelson said. "The best thing about it is that it happened very quickly (in the season) and we can get on with our lives."

Players and coaches from both teams lined up to congratulate Nelson with hugs and handshakes after the game. Afterward, the team presented Nelson with a signed game ball and commemorative banner.

"They gave me the game ball and messed up my hair," Nelson said. "But they're a great bunch of guys and a pleasure to coach."

Nelson is popular with his players, who were anxious to get
Nelson the milestone victory as soon as possible.

"It was special to get it for him tonight," Nowitzki said.
"He's a really special coach. He's a great game coach and that's
why he's one of the best."

Steve Nash added 29 points and 10 assists as Dallas won its ninth straight game -- its longest winning streak since an 11-gamer during the 1987-88 season.

Mavericks guard Michael Finley's streak of 490 consecutive games, the longest among active NBA players, came to an end because of a sore left hamstring. Finley sat on the bench in street clothes cheering for his teammates, and was among the first to embrace Nelson.

"It was the first time without Mike on the floor for me, so I felt naked," Nelson said.

Nash said the team missed the energy Finley brings to the court.

"Mike likes to play because he's so competitive, so I knew it must have been difficult for him," Nash said.

Dallas' bench produced 31 points to help compensate for Finley's absence.

"They told us before the game that we needed to pick it up, so
we knew what we had to do," said reserve Eduardo Najera, who had
10 points and eight rebounds.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim scored 21 points, Jason Terry added 18 and
Dion Glover and DerMarr Johnson had 16 apiece to lead the Hawks.

Atlanta rallied from a 20-point third-quarter deficit, finishing
the third with a 10-3 run to reduce Dallas' lead to 88-80 entering
the fourth.

But the Mavericks opened the fourth quarter with a 17-5 spurt
capped by Nash's 3-pointer to build the lead back to 105-85.

Nowitzki's 23 first-half points and Nash's 19 carried the
Mavericks to a 66-47 halftime advantage. Dallas closed the second
quarter with a 20-6 run to take control.

Nash made all eight first-half field goal attempts, including
two 3-pointers, and Nowitzki went 7-for-8 from the field, 3-for-4
from 3-point range.

"At one point, Nash and Nowitzki went 15-for-16," said Terry. "Now do you deal with that? Nowitzki is an All-Star for real. He made a believer out of me tonight."

Game notes
Finley, Dallas' second-leading scorer at 20.9 points per
game, hadn't missed a game in his six seasons. His streak of
consecutive starts ends at 359, which was also the longest among
active players. Finley is day-to-day. ... Dallas' 66 points at
halftime was the team's season high for any half. The Mavericks
matched their highest scoring quarter of the season with 34 in the
second. ... Atlanta has lost five of seven. ... Dallas' 21-9 start
ties with the 1986-87 team for the franchise's best record after 30