There's little left for the Dallas Mavericks to play for in their season finale after missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. It remains to be seen whether pride - and the chance to avoid a losing record - are much motivation.
The host Mavericks look to close a disappointing season with their fifth win in seven games Wednesday night against the struggling New Orleans Hornets in the teams' second meeting in four days.
Dallas (40-41) will be trying to avoid finishing under .500 for the first time since going 40-42 in 1999-2000 - also the last time it didn't play in the postseason. Given how they've been playing recently, though, the Mavericks may have found inspiration in that goal.
"Us not making the playoffs doesn't mean we can't lay it all out there and fight to the end," veteran Vince Carter told the team's official website. "We did it for our fans and our organization. Each individual knew we were going to lay it out there for each other and for the good of the team, and it starts with the old guys. The old guys are still playing big minutes and battling."
That was the case Monday when Carter scored 22 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 26, but Dallas failed to win its third straight and fell 103-97 to Memphis.
Carter, averaging 13.5 points on the season, has scored 19.5 per game over the past four. Nowitzki has averaged 22.0 - 4.7 above his season mark - in the same span.
Nowitzki has shot 53.5 percent in his last 16 games, but his season scoring average is his lowest since his 1998-99 rookie campaign.
One player coach Rick Carlisle expects more out of Wednesday is leading scorer O.J. Mayo, who has had a strong season but drew Carlisle's ire by scoring two points on 1-of-6 shooting against the Grizzlies.
"He just had a bad night; I guess I will write it off to that. But I will tell you what, if I was playing against my former team, I'd come out ready to go at them. But that's just me," Carlisle said of Mayo, who is averaging 15.4 points but has not scored in double figures in seven of the past 10 games.
"He didn't compete tonight. ... In the biggest game of the year, an opportunity to be a winning team, for him to show up like he did tonight I was shocked."
Dallas certainly showed up ready in the first half against New Orleans (27-54) on Sunday, outscoring the Hornets 62-40 en route to a 107-89 victory. Nowitzki had 19 points to become the 17th player in history to score 25,000, while Shawn Marion had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists as the Mavs moved to 2-1 in the season series.
Ryan Anderson scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds - eight offensive - for New Orleans, though he went 8 for 20 from the field as his team shot 37.9 percent. It was the fourth straight loss for the Hornets, who have been idle since that game.
"Obviously I didn't have everybody ready to play today, and that's solely on me," coach Monty Williams said. "I can't grow up for the players we have. We have a lot of guys who need to grow up."
Williams' team will finish with the second-worst record in the Western Conference after posting the worst last season at 21-45.