DALLAS – Don Nelson made a triumphant return to Dallas – barely, and in one of the wild finishes that remind him how stressful coaching can be.

Baron Davis scored 26 points and Jason Richardson added 22, just enough for the Golden State Warriors to hold off the Mavericks 107-104 in their new coach’s return to his old stomping grounds.

The Warriors led 107-97 with 2:26 left, but didn’t score again. A 3-pointer and a layup by Devin Harris, and a jumper by Dirk Nowitzki got the Mavericks close. Jerry Stackhouse missed a 3 that would have tied it with about 5 seconds left and Anthony Johnson got the rebound. He passed to Harris, but Harris passed back to Johnson as time expired.

Not only did Dallas fail to get off the final shot, fill-in coach Del Harris was screaming for a timeout. Official Dan Crawford apologized afterward, saying he couldn’t hear it. Nelson smiled, laughed and gave Harris, one of his best friends, a pat on the back.

Dallas fell to 0-3 for the first time since 1993-94 and is in jeopardy of the first 0-4 start in franchise history, not exactly the start the club expected coming off its first trip to the NBA finals.

The Mavs lost forward Josh Howard to a sprained left ankle midway through the second quarter, then coach Avery Johnson joined him in the locker room a few minutes later after getting ejected for arguing a non-call. With 3:05 left in the game, Jason Terry was ejected for a hard takedown of Golden State’s Monta Ellis.

Nowitzki led Dallas with 26 points. Harris scored 17 in his first start this season and Terry had 15 after scoring only one the previous game.

Troy Murphy scored 20 points for Golden State, which has beaten the Mavericks four straight overall and four in a row in Dallas. The Warriors were the only team that beat the Mavs three times last season.

Before the game, Nelson received a loud cheer from the crowd and even polite applause from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, whom Nelson is taking legal action against to collect $6 million he says he was promised by the team’s previous owners.

Nelson returned on the perfect night as the club unveiled a banner honoring its 2005-06 Western Conference championship, a feat set in motion when he took over the club as general manager in the late 1990s. He wasn’t part of the brief ceremony, but felt like it, saying before the game it was the best years of his career “because we went from the worst to the best.”

Nowitzki gave Nelson a big hug before tipoff, then before halftime Nelson found himself coaching against one of his best friends, Harris. It was their first time matching wits since February 1999.

Johnson was tossed with about four minutes left in the second quarter following a non-call when Terry missed a layup and wound up sprawled on the floor. He got one technical for saying, “That’s bull,” then another – and an automatic ejection – for griping about getting a technical. His harshest words followed as he made his way to the locker room.

Notes: Nelson and Harris last coached against each other when Nelson was with the Mavs and Harris was running the Lakers. Los Angeles won 101-88. … Nelson had his fourth different starting lineup in as many games. In this one, Mike Dunleavy Jr. didn’t start for the first time. … Harris replaced Greg Buckner in Dallas’ starting lineup, but Buckner started the second half in Howard’s place. … The curtain covering the Western Conference champion banner got stuck about halfway up. A worker had to walk across a catwalk and give it a stiff tug to free the snag.

AP-ES-11-06-06 2306EST


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