This was the Al Jefferson of two seasons ago, the third-team All-NBA center.
The Dallas Mavericks never figured out how to contain Jefferson (31 points) in the low post, and that ended an ugly blotch on NBA basketball in Charlotte. The Hornets beat the Mavericks, 108-94, for the first time in Dallas since 1998.
A lot happened in the interim: The original Hornets moving to New Orleans, the NBA awarding an expansion team to Charlotte, the Bobcats rebranding themselves as the Hornets.
Throughout that span the Mavericks built a winning formula around power forward Dirk Nowitzki. But he was relatively quiet in his impact Thursday (14 points on 4-of-12 shooting) and by midway through the fourth quarter the Hornets’ lead had swelled to 20 at American Airlines Center.
This was the first of a three-game Hornets road trip. They play the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center Saturday.
Three who mattered
Al Jefferson: There was a clear mismatch every time Jefferson got the ball in the post and Zaza Pachulia tried guarding him.
Marvin Williams: He had his fourth double-figure rebounding game already this season, after totaling five last season.
Cody Zeller: One game removed from needing eight stitches to close a wound to his forehead Zeller attacked the rim aggressively.
▪ The Mavericks entered this game having won 14 consecutive home games against Charlotte’s various NBA teams. That streak pre-dates the start of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004.
▪ Dallas small forward Chandler Parsons has been playing under a minutes limit of about 15 per game following knee surgery. He did not play in the first half Thursday but started the second half.
▪ A major theme of the off season was improving the Hornets’ 3-point shooting. They entered this game averaging most 3-pointers made (10.5 per game) and second in 3-point percentage (40.5 percent). Then they went 2-of-15 from the arc in the first half.
▪ Improved as the Hornets’ offense appears, they still have issues with shot-clock violations. Entering the Dallas game they committed five 24-second violations. Their opponents have committed one in those same four games.
▪ The Hornets average the second-fewest points in the lane (36 per game) in the NBA (Indiana is 30th). Clifford said that doesn’t worry him too much because the stat doesn’t reflect free throws generated from play in the post.
▪ Marvin Williams continues to excel as a rebounder. By halftime he had eight boards, slightly short of his per-game average of 9.3 this season.
▪ Rookie Frank Kaminsky was asked to guard perenial All-Star Dirk Nowitzki late in the first half. Kaminsky committed a quick foul in the post, but otherwise did OK.
▪ There were tornado warnings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area Thursday. Hopefully that’s the end of ugly weather there for the weekend, with NASCAR in town.
A+ OFFENSE: The Hornets used Jefferson’s advantage in the low post deftly to win two in a row after a 0-3 start.
B+ DEFENSE: When Dirk Nowitzki misses seven of his first 10 shots, your defense is doing something right.
A COACHING: Steve Clifford stuck to his convictions that he had assembled the right playing groups. He didn’t panic with wholesale change after three consecutive losses.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell