Nelson, 64, is scheduled to have surgery on his right shoulder Thursday to reattach an almost completely torn rotator cuff. The second-winningest coach in NBA history expects to return Feb. 8 at home against Chicago.
During Nelson’s three-week absence, assistant Avery Johnson will run the team.
The transition should be smooth for Johnson, who retired as a player just before training camp and has spent the last four months being groomed to eventually succeed Nelson. He coached four games this season, three with Nelson as his assistant and another after Nelson was ejected in the second minute. Dallas is 3-1 in those games.
“I’ve had a strong voice and a strong presence, so it’s not like we’re going from a guy that’s been sitting behind the bench and they don’t really know what I’m going to do,” Johnson said. “They’ve seen me in action before.”
The Mavs sent Nelson off with a 137-120 win over visiting Washington on Tuesday, racking up the most points in the NBA this season.
They shot 58 percent (45-for-78), including a season-best 65 percent (11-of-17) from 3-point range, in improving to 2-0 on the homestand and winning for the seventh time in nine games overall.
The NBA’s third-leading scorer, Nowitzki became the fifth member of the Mavericks to reach 10,000 career points Tuesday, joining Rolando Blackman, Mark Aguirre, Derek Harper and Finley.
“It’s definitely quite an accomplishment,” said Nowitzki, who is averaging 31.2 points on 61 percent (114-for-188) shooting in his last nine games.
The Mavs also welcomed back Josh Howard, who missed the previous three games with an upper respiratory infection. He had 10 points in 22 minutes.
Starting center Erick Dampier is doubtful for Thursday’s game due to a right knee contusion. Dampier, Dallas’ second-leading rebounder at 7.3 per game, played only 12 minutes Tuesday, contributing six points and two rebounds.
The Clippers have lost three straight, including an 80-79 setback at San Antonio on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game road trip.
The Clippers, who wrap up their trip at New Orleans on Saturday, have lost seven of their last eight road games.
They have dropped 20 of the last 25 meetings with the Mavs.