Hornets 99, Dallas 97: Our First Impressions

On Monday, the Mavs were able to render the Hornets' stingers impotent as they handed them their first loss of the season. Wednesday, they ventured into the Hornets nest and attempted to do the same. Unfortunately, Dallas found itself swarmed and outmatched in a third quarter that proved to be their undoing on their way to a gut-punch of a 99-97 loss. ... and we've got First Impressions:

*Caron Butler returned to action after missing three games and pushed Shawn Marion back to the bench after three consecutive starts … three starts that saw the Mavs go an impressive 3-0.

In this game, Butler was little more than an afterthought. In 22 minutes, he gave only five points on 2-of-7 shooting with two assists and no rebounds. After playing the entire first quarter, he did not play in the second and seemed to be on a short leash from that point on; hard to tell if this was due to injury or poor play.

* As a team, the Mavs came out strong in the first half with 31 points in the opening quarter, matching their best first quarter of the season, and continually pushed their lead into the realm of double-digits on their way to carrying a ten point lead into the half, 52-42 … a deficit the Hornets had not trailed by this season.

Jason Kidd led the Mavs in the first with nine points on a trio of 3-pointers. Kidd finished with 11 points, eight assists, four rebounds … and five turnovers, the bulk of which came in the game deciding third quarter.

Then came that third quarter, and the unraveling of everything the Mavs had done well.

* The Hornets emerged from the locker room with an intensity Dallas failed to match, and quickly erased the lead with a 27-to-7 run to open the second half. Much of this was fueled by sloppy play and turnovers from the Mavs. After only giving the ball away five times in the first half, Dallas quickly upped that total to 11 (and finished the game with 15) during the New Orleans run.

After having gone 60 quarters without allowing an opponent to score 30 points in a quarter, Dallas watched as the Hornets put up 33 … compared to the Mavs 17.

The lead was gone.

*A small sequence of plays involving Dirk Nowitzki, beginning at the 8:21 mark of the third, acted as a microcosm of the quarter for the Mavs. After not getting a whistle when Emeka Okafor contested his shot while coming down hard on the back of The Uberman's head, Nowitzki picked up a dumb foul by reaching out his foot from where he sat on the floor and tripping Okafor as he tried to release up-court … dumb, if for no other reason than it was Dirk's third foul.

Less than a minute later, Dirk was called for an offensive foul, his fourth, as he fought for positioning with David West. In a flashback to the 2007-08 playoff series against the Hornets, West and Nowitzki exchanged words in a small confrontation before Dirk went to the bench … and promptly earned a technical foul.

With Dirk on the bench, New Orleans outscored the Mavs 14-to-2.

A small meltdown, and the game had changed … yet, the outcome remained in doubt until the final seconds.

* Dirk had led all scorers with 29 points to go with nine rebounds, as he battled foul trouble throughout. But he was on the court at the end for the biggest play of the game.

After having done their best to erase the third-quarter collapse, the Mavs found themselves down only one, 98-97, with 6.2 seconds remaining and the ball in their trusted superstar's capable hands.

On this night, it was not to be. Dirk attempted to dribble the ball behind his back to get around David West. West tipped the ball away and was fouled with only 1.9 seconds on the clock.

After West missed his first free throw and made his second, giving the Hornets a two-point lead, Tyson Chandler attempted a full-court pass that was easily intercepted by West and the game was over.

*If you were watching the TV pregame on Fox Sports Southwest, you saw yet another defensive achievement the Mavericks brought into Wednesday's game against the Hornets. For 58 straight quarters, or 14.5 games, Dallas has not allowed an opponent to score 30 or more points in a single quarter.

This also means they entered Wednesday yet to allow 30 points in a quarter this season, and stand as the only team able to make that claim.

In a distant second place sat the Cleveland Cavaliers, having gone 16 quarters.

With 33 allowed in the third, the Hornets erased this streak … as well as the Mavs four-game winning run.

*Caron Butler returned and did not play well. With no rebounds, he also looked somewhat stiff and slow on defense. We'll have to hope this can be attributed to rust as he returns from injury … but he must play better.

*Jason Terry had another strong game. He finished with 16 points, seven assists, two rebounds, two blocks and one steal.

*After a strong stretch of basketball from JJ Barea, this wasn't his best game… particularly shooting … though he did find ways to contribute.

He went 2-of-13 from the floor on his way to nine points, six rebounds and six assists.

*In the wake of his 17 rebounds performance against the 76ers, Brendan Haywood has played two games and been on the court for about 45 minutes of action. In that time, he has totaled three rebounds and other than spurts of fair defense around the rim, has been completely invisible.

Haywood finished with three points, two rebounds and one assist.

This makes it two games now that the Mavs' "dynamic center duo'' has been a one-man show. Tyson Chandler did his part with 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks … but he was alone at the position in terms of effectiveness.

*To end on a positive note, DeShawn Stevenson once again excelled as the starting shooting guard … at least, he did in his extremely limited minutes. Playing only 9:25 he put up six points, making both of his only two attempts behind the arc, and played strong defense.

Yes. We're reaching. We're applauding DeShawn's solid nine minutes of play in a two-point loss at New Orleans ... and we're reaching.

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