DALLAS -- The climb to break even for the Dallas Mavericks seemingly took all season, and that's where they finished with a 99-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets at American Airlines Center on Wednesday night.
The Mavericks went into the season finale with a chance of posting a losing record for the first time since 1999-2000. Mark Cuban bought the franchise in January 2000 and Dallas began a run of 12 straight playoff campaigns the next season.
The postseason streak is dead, but there is some consolation in finishing 41-41, especially since the Mavericks were 10 games under .500 in January. For the first time since coming to Dallas and only the second time in his career, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle isn't preparing for the postseason.
"It's been a very different kind of experience for me," he said. "I've wanted to keep the right attitude about it the whole time."
New Orleans finished the season with two games against Dallas, losing both. The Hornets didn't carry any playoff illusions into this season. While their 27-55 record might be disappointing in some circles, this was always going to be the start of a process.
"It's just hard, man," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "You pour so much into the season and when it comes to an end, it's hard. I'm proud of our guys and what we've been through with all the injuries. Teaching these guys every day, the way they bought in is very tough.
"Outside of something that happens to your family, and I know it's not the same, but it's just hard. You just feel like you can do more and you want to be able to compete and play for something bigger than yourself. We didn't get that opportunity and it's just tough."
New Orleans, which is changing its name to the Pelicans, is building around the likes of Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon. Davis and Rivers, both rookies, finished the season on the injured list.
Two Hornets posted double-doubles Wednesday. Al-Farouq Aminu racked up 16 points and 20 rebounds, while Robin Lopez went for 14 and 13. Gordon had 16 points and Ryan Anderson had 13.
"It's not really how we wanted to end the season," Lopez said. "They really pushed the ball and we let them get to the paint too much."
Darren Collison topped all scorers with 25 points in what might be his last game in a Dallas uniform. Dirk Nowitzki rebounded from a slow start to net 16 points and nine rebounds. Shawn Marion added 15 points and seven boards.
"We should have never been in this position in the first place, but it is what it is and we never gave up and we ended the season .500," Marion said. "So that's definitely a positive. It's better than having a losing season, but at the end of the day, I'm sad it's over and I wish we could turn back the hands of time."
The Mavericks began to get separation in the second quarter behind Collison, jumping out to a nine-point lead. Gordon heated up and the Hornets climbed back in.
Nowitzki converted a 3-point play to send Dallas into the half up 47-39. Collison had 13 points at the break, while Gordon and Aminu each had 10 for the Hornets.
NOTES: Carlisle said the performances by players late in the season should impact whether they return. "Last impressions are very important heading into the summer," he said. "More important, probably, than first impressions." Added owner Mark Cuban: "We're going to re-evaluate everything." ... New Orleans played its last game as the Hornets. The franchise becomes the Pelicans next season. "It is exciting, but we all know there's a lot of work to do," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "But we feel really good about where we're going."