Coach Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks vowed to do everything possible to win tonight’s game over New Orleans in order to finish .500.

That’s good and well, owner Mark Cuban said before the game, but it won’t change the reality that Dallas failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.

“It is and it isn’t,” Cuban said of the importance of finishing .500. “I mean it’s important just because it would be nice to say. But,(expletive), we’re still going home after tonight, so it really doesn’t matter.

“But I want to win for the fans. I want to win for the guys. I want to win just because I always want to win. But I don’t want to make this into something that makes it seem important. It is what it is.”

Even without Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks began the season 4-1. Cuban, however, said that in the season’s seventh game, at Charlotte, he got his first clear indication that this season wouldn’t go as he hoped.

The Mavericks lost that game in overtime, 101-97, after blowing a 15-point lead. They would have pulled the game out in regulation, but allowed 6-1 Kemba Walker to get an offensive rebound on a missed free-throw.

“All we had to do was get a rebound,” said Cuban, who in recent weeks has said the Mavericks need to have a better basketball I.Q. going forward. “The mental breakdowns. It’s one thing to get beat. Sometimes you beat yourself when you do something stupid.”