Don Nelson became one of the most successful coaches in NBA history by building dynamic offenses.
His protege may have different plans.
Avery Johnson is infusing a more urgent atmosphere on defense after just one game as coach of the Dallas Mavericks, who seek their 13th straight win over the New Orleans Hornets when the teams conclude their season series.
It was a telling first game for Johnson, whose team beat the Charlotte Bobcats 104-93 Saturday.
After Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 of his 33 points by halftime, he was benched for a possession just 20 seconds into the second half after not executing a defensive play to the satisfaction of Johnson.
Nelson, the second-winningest coach in NBA istory, wasn’t likely to put Nowitzki on the bench for something like that. Johnson did quickly.
“I didn’t do my job on defense, I let my guy get the ball too deep. That’s a message he sent to me and everybody,” Nowitzki said. “I came back in and did a better job. We’ve all got to take that message.”
Dallas ranks among the NBA’s leaders in scoring, averaging 102.3 points per game. The Mavericks, though have struggled at times on defense, espcially of late. They’ve allowed at least 100 points in 13 of their last 20 games.
Whether it be against the Charlotte Bobcats, Charlotte Hornets or New Orleans Hornets, the Dallas Mavericks can’t seem to lose.
After sweeping their two-game season series with the expansion Bobcats, the Mavericks now look to continue their dominance of New Orleans. The Hornets’ last win against Dallas came on Nov. 17, 1999, when they were still based in Charlotte.
While the Mavericks outrebounded Charlotte 49-33, the Mavs struggled often on the defensive side that Johnson stresses so much. Nowitzki allowing a long jumper by 7-foot-1 Primoz Brezec was just one example of many times Johnson cringed.
“We missed Nellie on the bench,” Johnson said. “He probably would have won this game by 25, but since we have a young coach, I guess we couldn’t get that done.”
New Orleans lost 113-100 to the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
The Hornets’ 33 points in the opening period marked their highest first-quarter production of the season. They shot 53.8 percent in the quarter, but finished the game at 47.6 percent.
Hornets rookie J.R. Smith prevented an embarrassing rout with 21 points that included several off-balance floaters. Dan Dickau and Lee Nailon each scored 13 for New Orleans, while Jamaal Magloire and P.J. Brown each scored 12.
The Hornets have lost three of four.