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 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 after drawing a foul on Mavs guard Darren Collison, who bit on Gordon's pump fake. In just Gordon's third game of the season after returning from a long knee injury, he shook off a cold shooting night to score the Hornets' final eight points.
He had 14 in the game.
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 and Dallas' best 3-point shooter, O.J. Mayo, missed a pair of open corner 3s. Vince Carter tried to tie with a late heave, but even if it had gone down, Carter's foot was touching the arc.
The Mavs led by 11 points in the third quarter and 94-91 with 2:03 to play in overtime. Dallas dropped to 13-21 and needed this game against the now eight-win Hornets before heading out on a difficult three-game road trip to Utah, the Los Angeles Clippers and then Sacramento.
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.
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.
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)."