EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - In a league dominated by sky-scraping athletes, Lawrence Frank scored one for short people.
Frank set the NBA record for the best start to a coaching career by winning his 10th straight game and Jason Kidd posted his 58th career triple-double to lead the New Jersey Nets to a 98-92 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
“We’re happy we got the win,” said the 33-year-old Frank, who wasn’t good enough to make his high school team, in large part because he was too small at 5-foot-7. “That record, they can trot out anything. It’s the smallest feat of an NBA head coach.”
Frank had shared the record for best coaching start with Kurt Rambis of the 1998-99 Los Angeles Lakers and Buddy Jeannette of the 1947-48 Baltimore Bullets.
Kidd didn’t downplay the feat at all.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Kidd, who finished with 15 points, a team-high 13 rebounds and 10 assists. “You couldn’t ask for a better script or you might say it’s impossible. With coach Frank and this team, nothing is impossible.”
The win was the Nets’ 11th straight overall, tying the franchise record set in 1982-83.
“I’m happy for him,” Nets All-Star forward Kenyon Martin said after a 21-point, 10-rebound performance. “We’re going to keep this thing going on for him.”
The win came in what might have been Rasheed Wallace’s first and last game with the Hawks. He was acquired before the All-Star break amid speculation he will move again before Thursday’s NBA trading deadline.
“I’m getting sick of (reporters) asking about it. I’m getting sick of my family and friends’, ’Yo, what are they going to do?”’ — Wallace said after scoring 20 points in a team-high 42 minutes. “In a couple more hours it’ll be over with, so that’s all I’m looking forward to.”
Nets forward Richard Jefferson had 16 of his 23 points in the second half, and Rodney Rogers scored all 10 of his points in the final quarter, including two free throws that gave New Jersey an 89-87 lead with 2:50 to play.
Martin stretched the margin to four points with a putback after Joel Przybilla missed a layup at the other end. Kerry Kittles made it 93-87 with a rebound follow.
One streak that did come to an end for New Jersey was its run of 10 straight wins by 10 or more points.
Former Net Stephen Jackson had 25 points and Jason Terry added 22, each hitting five 3-pointers.
“Everybody thinks that just because we’re the Hawks we’re going to roll over and die,” said Wallace, who added six rebounds. “Maybe that was the thing before, but not now.”
Frank and the Nets seemed to be in a little trouble late in the third quarter when Jackson hit two 3-pointers and scored eight straight points to give the Hawks a 68-63 lead.
However, Jefferson hit a jumper and Kidd picked up a loose ball in the closing seconds and hit a half-court floater to tie the game.
Neither team led by more than four points in the fourth quarter until the closing minutes.
“We’re not looking to break records, we’re just looking to win,” said Frank, who spent four years as a manager at Indiana, working under Bobby Knight. “At the end of the day, if we are committed to improving daily, all of those milestones and records of the past will take care of themselves.”
Notes: Przybilla had four points on 2 of 11 shooting in his debut with the Hawks. ... The Hawks became the first team to outscore the Nets (29-25) in the third quarter since Frank took over. ... Rogers and Przybilla got matching technicals in the fourth quarter. ... Wallace was 8 of 24. ... Larry Bird had 59 career triple-doubles.
PBT: Lance Stephenson led Indiana with 25 points in a win that eliminated his hometown team. Stephenson and the Pacers will face the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
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