In defeating their division rivals 107-89 Tuesday night, the
Spurs also ruined the pseudo-coaching debut of Avery Johnson, one
of the most beloved players in San Antonio history.
Johnson's Mavericks never led, but were close at the start of
the fourth quarter until Devin Brown sparked a victory-sealing
spurt with two three-point plays and two dunks. He finished with 14
of his season-high 16 points in the period, leaving Johnson sulking
as he walked off the court, merely nodding and waving to Gregg
Popovich, San Antonio's coach and a good friend.
"I didn't coach against Avery, I just coached my team,"
Popovich said. "It wasn't about that."
Johnson, the hand-picked successor of Dallas coach Don Nelson,
ran the game as if the job was already his. Nelson was there, too,
but offered only suggestions. This was the first of about six such
training sessions Nelson hopes to have.
"It felt great, you are just mad that you lost," Johnson said.
"It doesn't sit well with me. ... We have a very good basketball
team here, but you didn't see that tonight."
Nelson picked this game to start breaking in Johnson because he
played most of his 16 seasons for the Spurs, including starting on
their 1999 championship club. This was the Spurs' fourth straight
win and the second time in a week that they've easily handled the
"Avery was pretty into the game," said Tim Duncan, who had 20
points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. "He knew what we like to do
and I thought he did a real good job."
Duncan made jumpers on San Antonio's first two possessions and
the Spurs were ahead the rest of the way. They were up at least 10
for most of the first three quarters.
Dallas got within 69-65 going into the fourth, but the comeback
fizzled quickly. Brown's first layup and free throw restored a
nine-point lead, and his second three-point play capped a 10-0 run
that made it 88-71 with 7:20 left. When the Mavericks finally
scored, Brown answered with a breakaway dunk.
Beno Udrih also had 16 off the bench, while Tony Parker scored
17 and Manu Ginobili added 11 as San Antonio scored its second-most
points of the season one game after putting up a season-best 109
against Utah. And after holding the Jazz to 10 points in the first
quarter of their last game, the Spurs held the Mavs to 14 in the
opening period and 40 at halftime.
Maybe Dallas could've used Johnson running the offense on the
floor, not the sideline. The Mavs had a season-worst 22 turnovers
and a paltry 10 assists. They also played lousy defense, with all
seven of Parker's baskets coming on layups.
"We've played better games," Johnson said. "We got on our
heels a little bit and never really could get it in gear."
Dallas lost for the fourth time in six games. The Mavs are 3-5
since opening the season 7-1 and already have lost three home games
after dropping only five all of last season.
"This is probably the toughest loss of the season," Terry
said. "They took us out of what we wanted to do. We couldn't get
into a rhythm offensively."
There was even a lack of rhythm courtside, as Johnson opened the
game by giving Nelson the main coach's seat on the bench, only to
swap spots after three possessions. Old habits die hard, though:
Nelson was the first off the bench to argue a questionable foul,
and he stayed up longer and yelled louder than Johnson. Nelson also
seemed to be biting his lip to keep from talking during the first
Johnson developed a close bond with Nelson and others in Dallas
while with the club in 2002 and '03. The Mavs made him an assistant
coach during the 2002 playoffs after leaving him off the postseason
roster. He signed this summer to be a player-coach but retired in
This was Dallas' third 20-plus turnover game after having
the fewest turnovers in the league last season. ... Although
Johnson was in charge, the game still counted as Nelson's 864th
career loss. ... As Dallas left the court after the game, injured
forward Michael Finley confronted a fan who was loudly taunting
him. When the fan wouldn't repeat his harshest comment to Finley's
face, Mavs owner Mark Cuban calmly got Finley to head back to the