This was supposed to be a breakout season for the up-and-coming New Orleans Hornets. But with their recent trend of alternating wins and losses, it’s difficult to tell which direction their season is heading.
In their first meeting since last season’s first-round playoff series won by the Hornets in five games, New Orleans opens its three-game road trip on Wednesday night against a Dallas team that returns home following three straight road losses.
New Orleans (22-12) visits Dallas on Wednesday for the first time since April 27, when it defeated the Mavericks 97-84 in Game 4 of its playoff series. That victory snapped the franchise’s 14-game losing streak in Dallas that dated to Jan. 24, 1998.
David West had a team-leading 24 points and nine rebounds in the Game 4 win. In Monday’s 101-95 loss to the visiting New York Knicks, the sixth-year forward had 25 points and 14 rebounds as the Hornets dropped just their second home game in their last 11 tries.
“When they came out and made us defend them, they were moving the ball with five, six or seven passes every trip they made,” West said. “They really dug in and made that third and fourth effort. They’ve got a bunch of guys that can really shoot the ball.”
New Orleans, meanwhile, did not shoot the ball well on Monday as it connected on a season-worst at home - 38.4 percent.
In their previous five games, including wins at Portland, the Los Angeles Lakers and a 107-80 victory against the visiting Clippers on Friday, the Hornets shot a combined 49.5 percent from the field.
After allowing just four of its first 23 opponents this season to reach 100 points, New Orleans has surrendered 100 or more four times in its last five games.
“This is the last game (of the Knicks’ road trip),” said Chris Paul, who notched his first career playoff triple-double with 24 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds in last season’s series clincher against the Mavericks - a 99-94 win in New Orleans on April 29. “We should have come out and tried to punish them early. They might have laid down. We let them get going, so they felt like they had a chance to win, and they did.”
Despite facing a 17-point second-half deficit at Denver on Tuesday, the Mavericks (22-16) nearly salvaged a win in the finale of their three-game trip. Their late rally, however, fell short as Dallas lost 99-97 when Chauncey Billups drew a foul on Jason Terry with 2.2 seconds remaining, then hit the game-winning free throws.
“The guy said I hit him with the body. There was no body at all,” Terry said. “He kicked his leg out falling down, so I don’t see how I could hit him with the body. He saw it different and that happens. Human error.”
Dirk Nowitzki was outstanding in the loss, hitting 12-of-12 from the foul line and scoring 44 points to go with 14 rebounds. That performance came after averaged just 14.7 points and 7.3 boards in his previous three games.
In last season’s playoff series, Nowitzki had 22 points and 13 rebounds in each of the final two games - both losses - as the Mavericks were eliminated in the first round for the second straight season following their 2006 NBA Finals appearance.
Dallas has won five straight and 12 of its last 14 at home.