Jarrett Jack put his faith in the officials in the tense final seconds and they rewarded him with an unlikely foul call against savvy veteran Jason Kidd.
Kidd was whistled on Jack's flailing 3-point attempt with 8.4 seconds to go. Then Jack capped a 21-point outing with three free throws to complete an 8-0 New Orleans run inside the final minute that lifted the Hornets to a dramatic 93-92 comeback victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
"I saw (Kidd) kind of close in on me, so I could swipe under his arm and I was able to get the call, go to the free throw line and knock down free throws," Jack said.
The Hornets trailed 92-85 when Dirk Nowitzki made a technical free throw with 1:13 left, then Marco Belinelli hit a 3 and Emeka Okafor put back Belinelli's missed reverse layup with 19 seconds left.
Tyson Chandler, who had 16 points and 13 rebounds in his return from a sprained right ankle, then missed two free throws with 17 seconds to go. That set up the decisive possession on which Kidd, who stopped short of admitting a foul, credited Jack with making a "smart play" to get to the free throw line.
Dallas still had one more chance to win it, but for the second time in New Orleans this season, Nowitzki was unable to convert, his 18-foot rainbow jumper over Okafor's outstretched arm bouncing high off the front rim as time expired.
Nowitzki, who had the ball stolen from him by David West in the final seconds of the Mavs' 99-97 loss in New Orleans in November, turned and walked toward the tunnel in disgust while Hornets players stormed off the bench, several jumping on Jack's shoulders.
"The last two minutes we kind of did everything wrong to kind of lose that one," Nowitzki said. "Just a bad, bad execution down the stretch. We really had the game won already. ... It shouldn't have come down to being down one with a couple seconds to go, but you've got to give them credit. They played hard. They hung in there."
"We've had a bunch of tough losses in here," Nowitzki added, alluding to the Mavs' eight straight losses in New Orleans, the latest ending their six-game road winning streak.
The Hornets outrebounded Dallas 44-31 and did not allow the Mavs an offensive rebound in the second half.
Belinelli finished with 21 points, hitting four 3-pointers, including a half-court shot at the first-half horn to pull the Hornets to 46-43. West had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Hornets, scoring six crucial points in the final 3:54. Carl Landry added 15 points before fouling out with 4:35 to go.
At that point, Dallas took an 82-73 lead on Nowitzki's free throws, and a second straight Hornets loss looked a lot more likely than a comeback against a Mavs squad which came in having won nine of 10.
Instead, the Hornets refused to give in and rallied for their third win in four games, all needed in a tight race for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.
"I don't think anybody thought we had a chance to win tonight except the guys in that locker room," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "You just have to wait for your moment. We grinded it out, our moment game, and our guys made plays."
Nowitzki finished with a game-high 26 points on 10 of 18 shooting, his jumper with 8:22 to go giving the Mavs their largest lead at 76-65.
Jose Barea scored 12 points and Jason Terry 10. Chandler, who had missed three games with his injury, looked comfortable upon his return.
He had eight points during a 9-0 Mavericks run in the third quarter, scoring on free throws, a 9-foot jumper and a fast-break dunk, after which he triumphantly hung on the rim and let his legs swing out, drawing boos from the fans that cheered him when he played for the Hornets.
Yet, when Chandler found himself on the foul line in the final half-minute, fans booing and howling lustily, he could not sink a free throw after going 8 for 10 from the foul line previously.
His second miss sent the crowd into a frenzy as the Hornets called timeout to set up a potential tying or winning shot, while Chandler walked back toward the Dallas bench, grimacing and cocking his head to the side.
"I felt good out there. I was moving around pretty well," Chandler said. "We had an opportunity to seal the game and I missed two free throws, but I'll do it again. I'll step up and put them in next time."
The Hornets wound up celebrating in the end despite the absence of Chris Paul, who missed his second straight game since being diagnosed with a concussion and watched from the bench. Jack, who came in averaging 18.8 points in his past five games, picked up the slack -- and then some.
"I think I've shown over my time in this league I'm a pretty capable player that can step in and fill in when something's necessary," Jack said. "I got here just off of hard work. I know I'm not the most talented, biggest, fastest, quickest or whatever, but I know I'm going to go out there and give it my all every time."
Notes: Shawn Marion started for Peja Stojakovic but went out of the game with sore right ribs shortly after a flagrant foul by Belinelli in the third quarter. He had seven points and four rebounds in 23 minutes. X-rays were negative on Marion, who said afterward he'd be OK. ... Hornets F Trevor Ariza returned from a groin strain that kept him out three games and had six points and nine rebounds in 40:32. ... Dallas and New Orleans split their previous two meetings this season with the home team winning each time. ... The Hornets are 22-9 at home.