NEW ORLEANS _ In scouting New Orleans' previous three games, Mavericks' coach Rick Carlisle counted 100 pick-and-rolls that Hornets' point guard Chris Paul ran.
It seemed like he ran that many in the third quarter alone Thursday night.
Defensive lapses that allowed Paul to turn that period into his personal highlight reel spelled doom for the Mavericks as the Hornets took control and bulled their way to a 104-88 victory at New Orleans Arena.
Paul wasn't the triple-double demon that he was in a New Orleans win at Dallas in January. But he recovered from a modest first half with 12 points and seven assists in the third quarter, when the Hornets moved ahead by double figures.
By then, the Mavericks, who were playing their fourth game in five nights, were running on fumes.
A three-point play by David West put New Orleans up 78-67 early in the fourth quarter and the Mavericks did a slow burn to the loss column. Paul finished with 27 points and 15 assists.
The loss dropped the Mavericks to 37-25. They remain in eighth place in the Western Conference, 2 ½ games up on ninth-place Phoenix.
They fell to 0-9 this season when failing to reach 90 points.
The Mavericks carried with them a lot of negative vibes when they showed up at New Orleans Arena on Thursday. This was their first appearance at the joint since getting knocked out of the first round of the playoffs in five games last season.
But every season is different and the Mavericks had a different strategy for going against the Hornets.
Chris Paul has incinerated them just about every time he's seen the Mavericks over the last two seasons.
So coach Rick Carlisle elected to go with a zone defense much of the first half and got solid results. It made for some unusual matchups. Erick Dampier found himself one-on-one with Paul on several occasions, but the Mavericks managed not to get burned by the alley-oop passes that Paul so dearly loves.
That didn't happen until the third quarter.
The Mavericks had seized their first lead of the game and went up 51-46 on a Nowitzki 3-pointer.
That's when Paul began picking them apart. He threw four lob passes in the next five possessions, all of which were converted for slams - three by Tyson Chandler and one by Julian Wright.
That produced a 10-2 spree and before they knew it, the Mavericks were down 71-59.
It seems like the Mavericks have played every night for the last 10 days.
In reality, it was only seven games during that stretch, but an NBA doesn't get any busier than that.
That would explain the sluggish start the Mavericks had. They shot 35 percent in the first quarter, but perked up in the second and tied the score, 45-45, at the break.
The Mavericks thought they were up by a basket when Kidd and Nowitzki hustled downcourt and got Nowitzki an 18-foot jumper at the buzzer. But replays showed that the basket came a split second after the horn sounded and the points were taken off the board.