NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Hornets had good reason to be extra motivated in their previous game Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks.
It was the Hornets’ last home game, and the franchise’s final game as the Hornets, as the city’s NBA team will become known as the Pelicans after Wednesday night’s game.
And, for some of them — perhaps many — it was their last game as a member of the team, playing with these teammates. The Hornets played listlessly, however, and lost badly 107-89.
However, players such as power forward Ryan Anderson and point guard Brian said it was good that the Hornets (27-54) get another crack at the Mavericks (40-40), Wednesday night in Dallas in the regular-season finale. And, with disgust etched on the players’ faces, they let it be known they felt they disappointed coach Monty Williams.
“When they don’t play well, and they feel they let you down, that means we’re together,” Williams said. “To hear some of their comments after the game, I was not surprised, but it was good to hear.
“But I felt I let them down, too, because I feel I didn’t have them ready to play.”
Williams said he is hoping that two good practices making defensive corrections will translate into the season ending on a good note.
Starting point guard Greivis Vasquez stated the obvious: that the Hornets, their roster depleted by injuries, have to have more energy. With two days’ rest and no games after, perhaps that won’t be a problem.
And, Williams said, it has to come from the start. The Hornets gave up 62 points in the first half and trailed by 22 at halftime. They tried hard to catch up in the second half, but the hole was too deep and the Mavericks too motivated to get back to the .500 mark after battling back since December, when they fell 10 games below it.
Williams said the key will be the lane, where Dallas scored 52 points, a big reason it shot 52.3 percent.
“Obviously, we have to get off to a better start defensively,” he said. “We were pretty poor guarding the paint.”
The Hornets, who shot 37.9 percent, had issues offensively, too, as Dallas was very effective against their pick-and-roll in particular.
“We didn’t handle their switching (defensively) really well,” Williams said. “They took us out of a lot of our deals. But we’ve just got to play for 48 minutes, not play (just the) second half. We’ve got to play the first and second half with a sense of urgency and purpose.”
A win would leave the season series tied at 2-2. Oddly, neither team has won on its home court in their meetings this season. New Orleans beat the Mavs 99-96 in overtime at Dallas on Jan. 5, in a game that excited the Hornets because of the play of Eric Gordon down the stretch. Gordon had a three-point play that sent the game into overtime.
Vasquez in particular said he was encouraged for the season’s remaining games “because we have a closer now.”
Gordon, who scored 15 in Sunday’s game, often has given the team a dimension — his drives to the basket — that it lacks when he doesn’t play.
With his play being restricted to 30 minutes or fewer and his not playing the second of back-to-back games, it has been a season of ailments for him, he said. And adjustments. Gordon played in the second of back-to-back games for the first time this season during the team’s recent road trip.
“The knee was just starting to come around, and I had some issues with my back,” he said.
In February, about half the Mavs had decided they would not shave until the team reached the .500 mark. When they beat the Hornets, putting their record at 40-40, standout forward Dirk Nowitzki ran to the locker room and shaved, as if he couldn’t wait.
However, the Mavericks were beaten Monday night on their home court by the Memphis Grizzlies, and face the prospect of reaching .500 again, or finishing with a losing record. The last time that happened was the 2000 season, when Dallas went 40-42.
That season, Nowitzki averaged 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds and finished second in the Most Improved Player voting. Against the Hornets on Sunday, Nowitzki, an 11-time All-Star, scored his 25,000th point.