SCHUYLER DIXON,AP Sports Writer
DALLAS (AP) — Darren Collison scored 25 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 16 and the Dallas Mavericks finished their worst season in 13 years on a winning note, beating New Orleans 99-87 in its final game as the Hornets on Wednesday night.
The Mavericks (41-41) avoided their first losing record since going 40-42 in 1999-2000 — also the last time they missed the playoffs.
Al-Farouq Amini had 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds for New Orleans, which will become the Pelicans next season. Eric Gordon also scored 16 for the Hornets.
Nowitzki, who also had a team-high nine rebounds, scored nine points in the third quarter, including a three-point play on a jumper and his one-legged step-back shot at the buzzer for a 75-64 lead.
The Hornets got within six in the fourth quarter, but Collison scored eight straight points to key an 18-4 run that put the Mavs ahead by 20.
Collison, brought in to bring youth to the Dallas backcourt but was twice replaced in the starting lineup by 30-something point guards, scored 13 in the first half and was 10-of-15 from the field.
Mike James, the 37-year-old who joined Dallas on a 10-day contract and replaced Collison as the starter in early March, was 3-for-4 from 3-point range for nine points. Shawn Marion scored 15 for the Mavs.
Dallas was trying to get back to .500 against the Hornets for the second time in four days. The stakes were a lot higher Sunday, when Nowitzki and other veterans finally got to shave some shaggy beards after vowing two months earlier not to break out the razors until they reached the break-even mark for the first time since mid-December.
“We want to finish without having a losing record,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, who avoided his second losing record in 11 seasons as an NBA coach. “There’s meaning in that. And we want to end on a high note.”
The Hornets (27-55), long since eliminated from the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, were just looking for a better showing than the 107-89 loss over the weekend, when they fell behind 62-40 at halftime and shot just 38 percent for the game.
New Orleans got some energy early from Aminu, who nearly matched his career high of 16 rebounds in the first quarter. He finished the period with 14 and had already matched Kurt Rambis’ franchise record of 13 in the first 8 minutes.
Aminu had two more boards than the entire Dallas team in the first half, and New Orleans outrebounded the Mavs 58-37 overall.
NOTES: O.J. Mayo was sharply criticized by Dallas coach Rick Carlisle after Monday’s loss to Memphis, which snapped a 12-season streak of winning seasons. Carlisle faulted the effort of Mayo, who had two points on 1-of-6 shooting with four turnovers and just one assists. “I don’t blame him,” said Mayo, speaking at Wednesday’s shootaround after leaving without talking to reporters Monday. “I didn’t play like I’d like and just didn’t have the energy I needed to play that game.” Mayo held or shared the team scoring lead in 17 of the first 25 games without an injured Nowitzki, including a season-high 40 in a win at Houston on Dec. 8. But he was the leading scorer just twice in the final 25 games — the last was more than a month ago — and was passed by Nowitzki in scoring average. “I thought this year was a great learning curve,” Mayo said.