By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
February 22, 2013

The last time the New Orleans Hornets and Dallas Mavericks met, it served as a turning point for the Hornets’ 2012-13 season. New Orleans entered its Jan. 5 trip to Dallas with a 7-25 overall record, but posted a dramatic 99-96 overtime victory over the Mavericks. Tied at 96 with time ticking down in the extra period, Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon banked in a 20-foot shot and was fouled with just 4.7 seconds remaining. Gordon sank the subsequent free throw for a conventional three-point play.

New Orleans hopes to improve to 2-0 vs. Dallas on Friday evening, when the Hornets host the Mavericks for the first time in 2012-13. In a scheduling oddity, the Southwest Division clubs won’t face each other again until April 14 and April 17, the Hornets’ last two games of this regular season. The April 14 contest in the Crescent City will be New Orleans’ 41st and final home tilt.

Greivis Vasquez paced the Hornets in their Jan. 5 triumph over the Mavericks, approaching a triple-double with 25 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith each proved invaluable off the bench with 16 and 12 points, respectively. The Hornets followed up the victory in Dallas by going on a four-game winning streak, featuring favorable outcomes vs. San Antonio, Houston and Minnesota. New Orleans has also turned around its fortunes on its home floor, going on a 6-3 run after opening the season at just 3-13.

Intriguing matchup: Power forward, Anthony Davis vs. Dirk Nowitzki
One of the game’s rising talents at the position meets a longtime star, with Davis facing Nowitzki, whose run of 11 consecutive All-Star Game appearances came to an end this month. Nowitzki led the Mavericks in scoring on Jan. 5 against New Orleans with 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting from the field. Meanwhile, Davis was whistled for three fouls in just 12 minutes of action. He finished with two points and one rebound.

Overview
Just two years ago, the Mavericks were crowned NBA champions, after knocking off the vaunted Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. Given what’s transpired in Dallas since then, it sometimes seems like that title was two decades ago. The Mavericks elected not to bring back several major pieces of their championship roster, including center Tyson Chandler and bench sparkplug J.J. Barea. More than halfway through the 2012-13 campaign, the Mavericks now find themselves in serious jeopardy of missing the Western Conference playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000. In addition to continued key roster departures – such as Jason Kidd signing with New York last summer – Dallas was also severely impacted by an early-season injury to Dirk Nowitzki. The future Hall of Famer did not make his season debut until Dec. 23, by which point the Mavericks had already fallen out of the top eight in the conference standings. They’ll need to get hot and leapfrog teams such as the Lakers, Trail Blazers and Rockets in order to qualify for the ‘13 postseason.

Star player
Nowitzki is a transcendent NBA player, the first 7-footer in league history to rank among the sport’s elite at three-point shooting. There have been other big players who could shoot the lights out (6-foot-9 Larry Bird, for example), but none with the size of Nowitzki. Unfortunately for the native of Germany, injuries have negatively affected him for two straight seasons. He shot just 45.7 percent from the field in 2011-12 and is at 41.8 this season, his two lowest rates since his rookie year.
On the rise
O.J. Mayo has been one of the NBA’s breakthrough performers in 2012-13. After moving to a backup role with Memphis in recent seasons, Mayo signed a free-agent deal with Dallas and has flourished. The shooting guard is leading the Mavericks in scoring and three-point shooting, while also improving his playmaking ability at 4.3 assists per game.

X-factor
In order to maintain their future salary-cap flexibility, the Mavericks have several veteran players under contract on short-term deals. Although some of them are into their 30s age-wise, they’re still capable of delivering valuable performances. The 36-year-old Vince Carter is Dallas’ third-leading scorer, while Shawn Marion (34), Elton Brand (33) and Chris Kaman (30) also figure prominently in the rotation.

On the sideline
Rick Carlisle led Dallas to the franchise’s only championship in 2011, in just his third season at the helm. Now in Year 5 with the Mavericks, the former NBA journeyman guard has posted a winning record in each previous campaign, including three straight 50-win marks. Carlisle was also successful in previous stints as head coach for Indiana and Detroit.

Did you know?
The Hornets are 12-1 vs. the Mavericks in the last 13 meetings between the clubs that have taken place in New Orleans, including 3-0 in the 2008 Western Conference playoffs.


Players the Mavericks want shooting free throws in a close game… If the Mavericks need a three-pointer, three of their best options are…
Name
Career FT percentage (through Feb. 21)
Dirk
Nowitzki
87.7
Top threat for Mavs, who rank third in NBA at 79.7.
Darren
Collison
86.5
Former Hornet at career-best 90 percent this season.
O.J.
Mayo
82.4
One bright spot after playing four years for Grizzlies.
Name
Career three-point percentage (through Feb. 21)
O.J.
Mayo
38.1
Shot over 50 percent in October and November.
Dirk
Nowitzki
38.0
Relied more heavily on threes early in his NBA career.
Vince
Carter
37.5
Former dunk champion now more of a jump shooter.


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