But whichever one prevails in their season-series finale Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center will be in a slightly better position than the other.
The Mavericks enter the game in 10th place, a half-game ahead of the Pelicans, with nine games remaining. Dallas sits 4 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Portland Trail Blazers and 3 1/2 back of the ninth-place Denver Nuggets.
The Pelicans (31-43) will enter the game against the Mavericks (31-42) five games out of eighth place with eight games remaining.
"We've just got to play good basketball and we can't worry about anything else," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry told the Pelicans' official website. "I'm not going to go in (the locker room) and say, 'Hey guys, time is running out.'"
But time is running out. The Pelicans helped their cause with a 115-90 victory Sunday at Denver, which New Orleans faces two more times, but then they lost 108-100 on Monday at Utah to finish 1-2 on a crucial road trip.
Anthony Davis had 30-plus points and 15-plus rebounds in all three games, but against the Jazz he had only 12 of his 36 points in the second half. Utah committed more defenders to Davis after halftime and slowed him down as the Pelicans played their second consecutive game without center DeMarcus Cousins, who has a sprained ankle. He is questionable for the Wednesday game.
"Obviously, (Davis) is our best player," Pelicans guard Tim Frazier told the Pelicans' official website. Obviously, the focus is to slow him down. ... I don't think that they stopped him or slowed him down, it was just shots that usually fall didn't fall for him."
While New Orleans is returning home, Dallas just left home to begin a crucial five-game road trip. The Mavericks completed a 1-3 homestand when they squandered a 15-point halftime lead in a 92-91 loss to Oklahoma City on Monday.
They know they can't afford any lingering effects from losing a 13-point lead while being outscored 14-0 by the Thunder in the final 3:30.
"We don't have a choice. No one is going to feel bad for us," Dallas swingman Wesley Matthews told the Mavericks' official website. "Maybe we need a little road, us-against-the-world mentality. We came out with the right attitude to start the game out. ... It was our game and they took it. We can't do (anything) about it. We've got to move on."
Dallas is last in the NBA in rebounding and that weakness showed against Oklahoma City.
"The rebounding discrepancy in the second half was the difference of the game," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told the Mavericks' official website. "We were up one rebound at halftime, and we ended up down nine. So that's 10 extra possessions of the ball that they got and they put it in the hole when they needed to."
The Mavericks hope to have guard Seth Curry back Wednesday after he sat out the Monday game to rest a sore left shoulder.
Dallas has won two of three games against New Orleans.