James Donaldson, of course, is no Bill Russell, but that doesn't mean he can't take some time to teach rookie center Benoit Benjamin a thing or two. And had it come earlier this season, when Donaldson still played for the Clippers, Coach Don Chaney wouldn't have minded one bit.
But Donaldson, traded to Dallas last November, decided to take advantage of his two-inch and 35-pound advantage over Benjamin and give a little lesson in positioning and rebounding Thursday night with the Sports Arena as the classroom. He powered his way for 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, grabbed 18 rebounds and earned some high grades from Chaney as the Mavericks beat the Clippers, 131-113, before a crowd of 8,188.
"You know the old saying, 'A player comes back to haunt you?' Well, I thought Donaldson played a terrific game," Chaney said. "He really outmuscled Ben under the basket. Wherever he (Donaldson) wanted to go, he went there."
And now, Chaney knows all too well where that put the Clippers--1 1/2 games behind the idle Phoenix Suns for third place in the Pacific Division. It also meant they have lost 5 of their last 6 games, 8 of 12 and 11 of 21.
Dallas (32-29) got a game-high 28 points from forward Mark Aguirre and 27 from guard Rolando Blackman, just two of six Mavericks who scored in double figures. Dallas' starters outscored the Clippers', 108-65, and the shooting statistics were just as close, 63% to 49%.
It was not exactly the type of night for Chaney to, uh, celebrate his one-year anniversary as head coach.
The Clippers (23-39) did get some good news, though, with the return of Norm Nixon, who had missed the last two games with a pulled hamstring in his left leg. Nixon made his first appearance midway through the first quarter, hit his first three shots, had 12 points in the second quarter and finished the game with 14 points.
"He's never injured against us," Dallas Coach Dick Motta said. "He's all-world against us. This could be the best we've ever handled him."
Cedric Maxwell led the Clippers with 18 points, 16 coming in the second half. Benjamin had 16 points to go with his 8 rebounds, and Marques Johnson and Lancaster Gordon each scored 15 points.
Nixon's hot second-quarter shooting helped put the Clippers back in the game before halftime.
After trailing by 12 at the end of the first quarter, 36-24, they caught the Mavericks with an 8-0 run in a little more than a minute, ending with Gordon's steal from Aguirre and slam dunk that put the Clippers ahead, 46-45, with 6:48 to play in the first half. But Dallas, with strong inside play by Jay Vincent, came back with a streak of its own, running off 10 straight points to take control. The Mavericks led, 67-60, at halftime.
Nixon hit 6 of his 7 shots and added 4 assists in 16 minutes of action in the first half. Forward Kurt Nimphius, acquired by the Clippers in the Donaldson trade, had 10 first-half points, eight in the first quarter.
The Clippers shot 59% in the first half, but Dallas shot 67% (28 of 42). The Mavericks had four players in double figures by that time--Aguirre (15 points), Vincent (14), Blackman (12) and Donaldson (10, with 10 rebounds.)
Maxwell, who had only two points in the first two quarters, scored on a three-point play seven minutes into the second half and later hit two free throws to bring the Clippers within four, 89-85. Once again, though, Dallas held off the surge with three straight baskets inside, two by Aguirre, and then got a driving layin by Brad Davis to lead, 99-88, at the end of three quarters.
The fourth quarter was much of the same, with the Clippers making a run, only to be held off. Or outmuscled.
The game started a stretch of seven games in 10 days for the Clippers, who play tonight at San Antonio. . . . Maverick guard Derek Harper returned to Dallas after spraining his left ankle Monday at Phoenix, breaking his games-played streak at 224 since turning pro. He will undergo therapy three times a week in hopes of playing Sunday at Sacramento. . . . Norm Nixon scored just 4 points in 10 minutes before going out with the leg injury at Boston, but he had scored in double figures in nine previous games.