Avery Johnson looks to become the fastest coach to win 100 games in NBA history as his Dallas Mavericks try to extend their current winning streak to 10 games when they play the Denver Nuggets on Sunday at the Pepsi Center.
Johnson is 99-31, and with a win will pass the late Red Auerbach, who holds the record for quickest to 100 coach victories, reaching the milestone in 135 games.
He has a good chance at doing that since Dallas (23-7) has won 30 of the 39 games between the teams since the 1996-97 season, including 12 at Denver.
A former point guard, Johnson is in his third season coaching the Mavericks. He signed a five-year, $20 million contract in the offseason after taking Dallas to the NBA finals for the first time in franchise history. The Mavericks lost to the Miami Heat in six games, but the immediate impact he had on the team led Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to make sure Johnson would stick around.
The 41-year-old won a NBA championship as a player with the Spurs in 1999 and was the Mavericks assistant coach after retiring as a player on Oct. 28, 2004. He coached Dallas’ final 18 games in 2005 after Don Nelson stepped down.
Thanks to players like Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, Johnson’s job this season has been relatively easy. Dallas has the best record in the NBA after an 0-4 start. The team won 12 straight from Nov. 9-Dec. 1, and currently has a nine-game winning streak following Saturday’s 94-80 win over the New Orleans Hornets at home.
Jason Terry led the Mavericks with 25 points and six assists, while Nowitzki added 17 points and Howard 15 with six rebounds.
New Orleans briefly took the lead in the first half, but Dallas responded with a 19-8 run to end the second quarter and put the game out of reach with a 13-2 burst to start the second half.
“We lost focus and had some lapses,” Howard said. “But we turned it up and finished strong.”
The Nuggets (16-11) are coming off a 99-89 loss to the Hornets on Friday. Earl Boykins scored 26 points off the bench and Allen Iverson added 21. Denver didn’t arrive to its hotel in Oklahoma City until 5 a.m. local time on Friday, and the effects seemed apparent with the Nuggets tying a season-low by shooting only 37.1 percent and scoring only 30 second-half points.
Iverson, though, refused to blame the lack of sleep on the team’s poor effort. Playing his fourth game with Denver since being acquired from Philadelphia, Iverson was just 6-of-22 (27.3 percent) from the floor. He also had five turnovers, giving him 22 since his arrival in Denver.
“There’s no excuses. That was a game we were supposed to win,” said Iverson, who failed to record a double-double for the first time since joining the Nuggets. “I stunk it up. I can’t play that way and expect us to win basketball games.”
Iverson is averaging 27.4 points in 15 games against the Mavericks.
Denver plays six of its next seven games at home, where the team is 9-5.
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