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Mavericks Can't Escape Hornets' Nest

The Mavericks struggled to execute on their last possession and that was the difference in an 99-97 defeat.  Dallas split the mini-playoff match-up with New Orleans.  The Mavericks struggles in New Orleans continue, this marks their 10th consecutive loss in New Orleans.  It was noted in the home-and-home series with Denver that the team that wins game one tends to let down.  Despite the defeat, that was not the case in the Crescent City. 

The Hornets were able to avenge their first defeat of the season against Dallas on Monday, led by Chris Paul with 20 points and 11 assists.  Paul led the charge but all 5 Hornets starters had at least 12 points and all had their moments where their contributions truly effected the game.

The Mavericks continued their string of coming out strong by finishing with 31 points and 52.2% shooting after the first quarter against the Hornets.  An umbrella could have been useful as it was raining threes for the Mavericks, they went 5-7 from beyond the arc in the opening quarter.

In addition to giving the Hornets their first loss, the Mavericks also were the first team to force a 10 point deficit against New Orleans.  They were able to do so on multiple occasions but a 20 point swing in the 3rd quarter lead to a 10 point lead for the home team.  New Orleans came out in the second half with a lot of energy and aggression and that led to them scoring 33 points to Dallas' 17.  Even with the rough third quarter, the Mavericks were able to recover and took a brief 91-90 lead but they couldn't close the game out defensively. 

Turnovers were also a huge story for the night.  15 turnovers is relatively low, but New Orleans turned them into 23 points. That is a very different story compared to Monday night.  Dallas had 15 turnovers on that night, but the Hornets turned those into just 12 points.

Caron Butler returned to the lineup after missing three games with mild back spasms.  He struggled with his jumper early, missing his first four attempts.  After that, he got to the free throw line and that appeared to settle him down by making his next two shots.  Despite that adjustment, Caron was never really able to get fully acclimated to the game.  He played 22 minutes and finished with 5 points.

DeShawn Stevenson started again on Wednesday night and came out nailing two three pointers and playing strong defense to start the game.  He logged just under 9:30 minutes of game action for the evening.  Hindsight is 20/20, but you have to wonder if his play on both sides of the quarter could have made a difference in the turbulent third quarter for the Mavericks.

Foul trouble plagued Dirk Nowitzki throughout the game.  He got two early fouls in the first 7 minutes of the first quarter and then received his fourth foul not even 5 minutes into the third quarter.  The Mavericks had to gamble bringing him back in during the tail end of the quarter as he was the best option, offensively, for the team tonight.  He finished the evening with 29 points on 11-19 shooting, 5-6 in the fourth quarter.

It's a tough loss for the Mavericks, but they have to feel good they were still in the game at the very end and out of 8 quarters against New Orleans, they only really had one bad quarter (tonight's third quarter).  The margin of victory out of the two games was 2.5 points. 

The Mavericks have enjoyed some nice breaks between games but that stretch is now over.  They will play 7 games in 12 nights with 3 sets of back-to-back games and one stretch of 4 games in 5 nights.

Quick Notes:

- The 3rd quarter marked the end of an incredible streak for the Mavericks defense.  Dallas allowed 33 points in the third quarter which ended a streak, going back to last season, of 60 consecutive quarters of 29 points or less for the opposition.

- Jason Terry moved into sole possession of 9th place all-time, passing Tim Hardaway, for three-point shots made.

- Jason Kidd scored 11 points, this marks the first defeat of the season (4-1) with Kidd scoring in double figures.

- The Southwest Division is the toughest division in the NBA right now.  Entering tonight, 3/5 of the league's best records reside in the Division between the Hornets, Spurs and Mavericks.