NBA owners are expected to lock out players tonight after the two sides failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, union head Billy Hunter said.

Both sides met for three hours today in New York, with the midnight deadline approaching, but could not close their gap, possibly jeopardizing the 2011-12 season. The last lockout caused the 1998-99 season to be reduced to 50 games. That was the only time games have been lost because of a work stoppage.

“We tried to avoid the lockout,” Matt Bonner, a member of the union’s executive committee, told the Associated Press.“Unfortunately we couldn’t reach a deal.”

Hunter added that no further talks were scheduled, but said that both sides were cordial. “I thought we were gonna start singing ‘Kumbaya’ in there,” he said (via David Aldridge).