Having Dirk Nowitzki back in the starting lineup was a significant step for the Dallas Mavericks.
Eric Gordon's first start of the season for New Orleans had a much better ending.
Gordon, who like Nowitzki missed time recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, completed a three-point play with 4.7 seconds left in overtime Saturday, lifting the Hornets to a 99-96 victory.
Though Gordon was 4-of-13 shooting in only his third game this season, he made the biggest basket of the night on a bank shot from the top of the circle after he got Darren Collison in the air and drew the foul. He then sank the free throw.
"On that last one, I was starting to feel it a little bit. . I kept on playing and taking jump shots," Gordon said. "It's definitely a confidence booster to do well in overtime, especially for such a tough shooting night, it felt good to overcome it."
After a timeout, O.J. Mayo was beyond the 3-point line when Gordon went up the air and by him. Gordon's foot made contact with the ball, knocking it loose. Instead of a foul, officials called it a kicked ball. Dallas got one more chance but Vince Carter's shot from the right corner ricocheted off the rim.
Soon after the game, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted: "Im sorry NBA fans. Ive tried for 13 yrs to fix the officiating in this league and I have failed miserably. Any Suggestions ? I need help."
Nowitzki had a team-high 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting in 34 minutes, his most extensive action this season. He missed a free throw with 18 seconds left in regulation that would have put the Mavericks ahead by a point.
"Obviously, I'm not quite there yet, it's still a work in progress, especially playing 30 minutes and then being asked to get the ball down the stretch every time and make something happen, I don't think I'm at that point yet," Nowitzki said. "But I'm going to keep working on going in the right direction and turn it around, pull some of those close games out and get some of those wins."
Greivis Vasquez had 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter for the Hornets, but missed a final shot at the end of regulation. Vasquez also had nine assists.
The Mavericks (13-21) have lost 10 consecutive overtime games, matching an NBA record held by three other teams. That includes seven OT losses this season, five of them in their current 2-11 stretch — the latest against the worst team in the Western Conference.
"It feels like it. Yeah, it feels like it. I still believe in the team and I like the guys," coach Rick Carlisle said when asked if this felt like a rock-bottom loss. "This is just a tough time and it's important that everybody sticks together and we've got to fight through it."
Ryan Anderson had 16 points for New Orleans (8-25), which had lost 14 of its previous 16 games. Gordon had 14 points and Jason Smith scored 12. Al-Farouq Aminu had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Carter had 17 points for the Mavs, and Mayo had 14 on 5-of-17 shooting.
Nowitzki had been a reserve in his first six games after missing the first 27 games of his 15th NBA season recovering from arthroscopic right knee surgery.
It was the NBA-high 15th different starting lineup for the Mavericks, and the first time this season they had the starting five they anticipated before the star 7-footer had surgery Oct. 19, three weeks into the preseason: Nowitzki with Shawn Marion and offseason additions Chris Kaman, Mayo and Collison.
There was a huge ovation when Nowitzki was the last of the starters introduced before the game.
Vazquez made a 3-pointer with 7½ minutes left in regulation that put the Hornets up 79-73, their biggest lead of the night.
Anderson hit a long 3-pointer from the left wing with 3 minutes left in regulation to put New Orleans up 84-83, and Carter responded with his own 3 for Dallas.
After Vasquez missed both of his free throws with 1:12 left, the Mavs led 88-87 after Nowitzki swished a long jumper over Anderson. But Smith then drove past Nowitzki for a layup.
Hornets coach Monty Williams was livid when Gordon was called for a foul when providing some help defending Nowitzki. Dallas got the ball on the side before Nowitzki was fouled again by Gordon, this time going to the line. But he missed the first of two free throws for a tie game before Vazquez had to take a wild shot at the buzzer.
"It was a fun game for us because we were playing not good, but the fourth quarter and the momentum carried over for us," Vasquez said. "I missed a couple of free throws, but later on I took over and helped basically win the game for us."