DALLAS -- With the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Hornets each welcoming back their star player to the starting lineup, it was Hornets guard Eric Gordon who provided the late fireworks in leading his typically hard-luck Hornets to a 99-96 overtime win Saturday night at the American Airlines Center.
Gordon hit the game-winner from the top of the circle and completed the three-point play after drawing a foul on Mavs guard Darren Collison, who bit on Gordon's pump fake. In just his third game of the season after returning from a long knee injury, Gordon shook off an otherwise cold-shooting night to score the Hornets' final eight points.
He had 14 in the game.
"On that last [shot] I was starting to feel it a little bit," Gordon said. "I kept on playing and taking jump shots and somehow I needed to get to the basket. I was worried about getting the shot off especially when it's that close."
Meanwhile, the Mavs welcomed back Dirk Nowitzki to their starting lineup and got 20 points from the 7-footer in his seventh game back from arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 19. However, Nowitzki was a non-factor in the overtime with no points and Dallas' best 3-point shooter, O.J. Mayo, missed a pair of open corner 3s. Vince Carter tried to tie it with a late heave, but even if it had gone down, Carter's toe was touching the arc.
Dallas is now 0-7 in overtime games this season and has dropped 10 in a row dating back to last season, tying an NBA record with Atlanta, Minnesota and Golden State.
"I really don't know," Mavs forward Shawn Marion said of the team's trouble in the extra period. "We can't guard nobody. We've got to step up and contain guys and make them do something that they're not comfortable doing. And if we don't do that, we're going to have problems."
The Mavs blew an 11-point lead in the third quarter and were up 94-91 with 2:03 to play in overtime. Dallas dropped to 13-21 and badly needed this game against the now 8-25 Hornets before heading out on a difficult three-game road trip to Utah, the Los Angeles Clippers and then Sacramento.
Having lost 11 of their last 13 games, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said it feels like the team has hit rock-bottom.
"It feels like it. Yeah, it feels like," Carlisle said. "I still believe in the team and I like our guys. This is just a tough time and it's important that everybody sticks together and we've got to fight through it."
Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez, last week's Western Conference player of the week, showed why with 25 points, 15 coming in the fourth quarter. He finished with a near triple-double, dishing out nine assists and grabbing seven rebounds. But he couldn't end the game in regulation, unable to get off a decent shot as the buzzer sounded.
Before the game, Vasquez spoke eagerly about Gordon's return to the starting lineup because of his ability to close out tight games, a problem New Orleans has faced all season. Gordon did it with a driving layup, a 3-pointer and the pump fake that Collison won't forget.
"That's why he's a big-time 2-guard in this league," Vasquez said of Gordon. "That's what they do, they win games at the end. He is going to [command] attention and it's going to make my job easier. Having him back is going to help because it will help us get in a rhythm both defensively and offensively. He knows that we need him and we have him from now on."
Ryan Anderson chipped in with 16 points and seven rebounds, and reserve Jason Smith had a big fourth quarter and overtime, finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds. Their contributions were significant because No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis played just 12 minutes and had four points and one rebound.
The Mavs were led by Nowitzki's 20, but needed more help from Mayo, who finished with 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting. Carter finished with 17 points.
NOTES: Nowitzki received a rousing ovation during pre-game introductions as he made his first start of the season. ... Hornets guard Eric Gordon returned to the Hornets' lineup for just his third game of the season and his first start. ... New Orleans made another change to the starting lineup, inserting forward Al-Farouq Aminu. Along with Gordon, Greivous Vasquez, Robin Lopez and No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, it is the starting lineup coach Monty Williams said he envisioned from the start. ... The Mavs have dominated the series with the Hornets in Dallas, having won 19 of the previous 20 meetings. New Orleans' only win in Dallas since the franchise relocated to New Orleans was a 104-97 victory on Jan. 14, 2009. ... Mavs center Chris Kaman played for the Hornets last season. Hornets coach Williams said of Kaman: "He's a guy that somebody is going to commit a lot of money to in the next free agency because he's a pretty good big (man)."