By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
April 14, 2013
Although Sunday’s game between the New Orleans Hornets and Dallas Mavericks won’t have any implications on the heated Western Conference playoff race, it marks the final home contest in the 25-year history of a club that has been known as the “Hornets” since debuting in 1988. This October, the renamed New Orleans Pelicans will commence their inaugural season.
Perhaps it’s fitting that over the next four days, New Orleans will wrap up its 2012-13 schedule with a pair of games against Dallas, one the team’s biggest rivals since the franchise moved to Louisiana in 2002. Several of the Hornets’ most memorable victories over the past 11 seasons have come at the expense of the Mavericks, including a first-round Western Conference playoff triumph in 2008. New Orleans’ 4-1 series elimination of Dallas in ’08 will stand in the NBA history books as the only Hornets playoff advancement during the aforementioned 11-year span (New Orleans also qualified for the postseason in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2011).
Later this week, New Orleans and Dallas will play game No. 82 of this season for both on Wednesday in Texas.
In the most recent meeting between the Southwest Division foes, the Mavericks dealt the Hornets one of their most heartbreaking losses of 2012-13. New Orleans grabbed a 100-96 lead when Ryan Anderson drilled a three-pointer with 56 seconds left, but Dallas scored the game’s final eight points for a 104-100 win. Vince Carter buried an ultra-clutch three-pointer with just 6.5 seconds to go, putting Dallas in front 102-100.
On Jan. 5 in Dallas, New Orleans broke through first in the season series with a dramatic 99-96 overtime victory. Eric Gordon’s conventional three-point play in the final seconds of OT proved to be the game-winner.
With just three games remaining, the Mavericks have been eliminated from playoff contention, just two years after they were crowned 2011 league champions. Dallas made the often-second-guessed decision of letting key members of the 2010-11 title team depart in free agency, with the publicly-stated hope of replacing them with other big-name free agents. It hasn’t happened in either of the past two offseasons, and the result has been a precipitous drop in the Western Conference standings, down to 10th place.
Among the list of reasons behind Dallas’ drop-off in performance as a team, one of the most prominent has to be that power forward Dirk Nowitzki has missed nearly 30 games this season due to injury. Nowitzki is the Mavericks’ unquestioned go-to guy; his absence leaves them without a true and feared No. 1 scoring option, though shooting guard O.J. Mayo has enjoyed a breakout season. Nowitzki, a native of Germany, is the only Dallas starter to score 20 points in a game vs. the Hornets this season, though Vince Carter did deliver 22 off the bench on Feb. 22.
On the rise
Mayo is Dallas’ second-leading scorer, producing consistent offense in his first year with the club. The former Memphis lottery pick has shot extremely well as a Maverick, including a career-high percentage from three-point range. The Southern Cal product appeared in the playoffs each of the past two years with the Grizzlies.
Reserve forward Brandan Wright recently put together one of the most productive stretches of his five-year NBA career. The athletic University of North Carolina product compiled a 17-point, 13-rebound game vs. Chicago and a 20-point outing against Sacramento, both Dallas wins.
On the sideline
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has only experienced one losing record in 10 previous seasons at the helm in Detroit, Indiana and Dallas. Carlisle guided the 2011 Mavericks to the first NBA championship in the team’s history, often relying on small lineups in the Finals to outplay the more highly-touted Miami Heat.
Did you know?
Dallas’ current starting and backup point guards are both former members of the Hornets. First-stringer Mike James was a rotation member of NOLA’s division-winning team of 2007-08, while Collison was a first-round pick in 2009 and an NBA all-rookie choice following the 2009-10 campaign.
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