NEW ORLEANS — Ryan Anderson, Greivis Vasquez and their teammates stood on the floor at the New Orleans Arena on Sunday, handing out items to fans who have withstood the franchise’s growing pains of late.
It was the least they could do.
New Orleans never had a chance in its final home game as the Hornets, losing to Dallas 107-89.
And if the fans weren’t pleased, their unhappiness likely didn’t match that of coach Monty Williams, who has time and again tried to get across to his young team that the NBA is a job and not a hobby.
“We’re trying to help guys mature and understand there’s a responsibility that goes with being an NBA player,” Williams said. “This is not AAU or college. This is the big boys’ league.”
The Hornets (27-54) main problem against Dallas came on defense. New Orleans hit the same number of 3-pointers – nine – as did the Mavericks (40-40). The Hornets outrebounded the Mavericks by eight and New Orleans took 10 more free throws than did Dallas.
But New Orleans couldn’t keep Dallas from making shots. And it couldn’t make its own attempts.
Dallas went 45 of 86, hitting on 52.3 percent of its attempts. New Orleans, meanwhile, took 87 shots but converted only 33 of those field goal attempts.
It was the difference in the game.
“We obviously didn’t have everybody ready to play and that is solely on me,” Williams said. “There is no other person to look at but me as a coach.”
“We all knew that we can’t finish out like that,” said Hornets guard Brian Roberts, who finished with 13 points and a team-high six assists. “We played well for the most part in the last month or so. We can’t come out like that.”
New Orleans took a 3-0 lead on a Ryan Anderson 3-pointer. It would be the biggest lead of the game for the home team.
Behind Dirk Nowitzki, who surpassed 25,000 career points with a 19-foot jumper in the second quarter, the Mavericks piled on. Dallas outscored New Orleans 33-19 in the first quarter, pushed it to 62-40 by halftime and cruised thereafter.
Nowitzki finished with 19 points and six rebounds, Shawn Marion added 21 points and seven boards and Dallas’ bench outscored New Orleans’ 44-23 to add insult to injury.
Anderson led New Orleans with 20 points and had 12 rebounds, Robin Lopez added 10 points and 13 boards and Eric Gordon contributed 15 points in the loss.
And now the Hornets head to Dallas on Wednesday for the finale.
Williams won’t give the players a day off in between now and then, hoping that he can get his message through even if at the last minute.
“You don’t want to go into the offseason with a bad taste in your mouth,” Roberts said. “You want to go out playing the way you want to pay, playing hard and competing. We’re all looking forward to Wednesday.”