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The Southwest Division rivals wrap up a home-and-home set Wednesday night in New Orleans, where the Hornets have won six straight in the series and look to hand the Mavericks their first road loss.
New Orleans was the NBA's lone remaining unbeaten team heading into Monday's visit to Dallas. After three quarters, it looked like the Hornets (8-1) would add to the best start in franchise history, but they couldn't hold a 10-point lead with 7:44 to play.
Jason Kidd made three 3-pointers and Dirk Nowitzki added eight points down the stretch, part of a 21-8 run to end the game that gave the Mavericks their fourth straight win, 98-95.
"It was really intense with the Hornets coming in 8-0," said Dallas guard Jason Terry, who had a game-high 26 points off the bench. "For three minutes at the end of the game we just said, 'who wants it more?' and we were that team tonight."
Something about facing New Orleans seems to get Terry going. The 2008-09 Sixth Man of the Year has averaged 20.4 points in 13 games against the Hornets since 2007-08, his second-highest average versus any opponent in that span.
Dallas (7-2), however, hasn't figured out a way to win in New Orleans in that stretch. The Hornets have won all six meetings - shooting 50.8 percent, averaging 108.5 points and winning four times by double digits.
That's a skid Terry and the Mavericks, who have won their first three road games by an average of 10.6 points, are eager to stop on the back end of the home-and-home set.
"It's special because it's like a mini-playoff series," Terry said. "And we held serve by winning at home, and now we go on the road. That's kind of fun, this early in the season to have something like that."
Chris Paul has been the catalyst to the Hornets' home success versus Dallas. The three-time All-Star has averaged 28.7 points, 10.8 assists and 3.0 steals in those six victories.
In the second half Monday, though, the Mavericks finally slowed down Paul. A zone defense helped hold Paul to two points following halftime after he scored 20 on 8-of-11 shooting in the first 24 minutes.
"The guy drops 20 on you, you're going to make some adjustments," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "There was nothing wrong with him, he just didn't get the looks he had in the first half."
With Caron Butler (back) out for a third straight game, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle went to a three-guard lineup - Kidd, Terry and J.J. Barea - that turned the tide offensively.
"It was an attempt to get more playmaking into the game, get more penetration in the game," Carlisle said. "That was a gamble because when you go small, you don't have the length and they are a very long team. But the group that finished did a great job."
While the Mavericks could get Butler back Wednesday, the Hornets have to be pleased with the way their own former All-Star small forward has responded after being inactive for five games. Peja Stojakovic had 11 points in Saturday's win over Portland, then had 17 - hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers - in just under 20 minutes against Dallas.