No matter the situation, Vince Carter prides himself on being able to deliver in the clutch.
Thursday night at the AT&T Center, a dejected Carter failed in the clutch as the San Antonio Spurs snapped the Dallas Mavericks’ modest four-game winning streak with a 92-91 triumph.
The loss left the Mavericks with a 30-34 record heading into tonight’s 7:30 game at American Airlines Center against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Dallas used a basket by O.J. Mayo, a 3-pointer from Carter and a hoop by Dirk Nowitzki to scramble back from a 92-84 deficit and inch within 92-91 of the Spurs with 28.2 seconds remaining.
Following a missed shot by the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili, Carter eventually received an inbounds pass with 5.6 seconds left. But his 3-pointer at the buzzer over the outstretched arms of 6-foot-11 Tiago Splitter went in the rim and came out.
“I got what I wanted,” Carter said. “I had [Splitter] lined up perfect. I just needed it to go in. It was a good look. I didn’t feel like I forced the shot. I just needed that thing to go in.”
It was a night in which the Mavericks at least acquitted themselves well after getting blasted here 129-91 on Dec. 23. But the Mavericks still came up short after getting badly beaten on the boards 49-35.
“We were down eight points with [2:37] to go, so to be able to hang in there like that is a positive thing,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “However, we need wins, and so we don’t take any moral victories from this.”
The loss left the Mavericks 3-1 on this four-game road trip. That was encouraging enough, but the Mavs believed they were in perfect position to sweep the road trip.
“We executed well down the stretch,” said Nowitzki, who had 21 points and 11 boards. “We got some big stops and some big rebounds and we had a chance.
“We had a chance in this building to walk away with a win. That’s been kind of the model of our year. We’re right there and just can’t get over the hump.”
Because the Mavericks couldn’t get over the hump, they were swept by the Spurs in the season series this year, 4-0, for the first time since the 1997-98 season. Also, it was the 21st consecutive victory at home for the Spurs against a Southwest Division opponent.
Still, the Mavericks figured they had the Spurs right where they wanted them. Down one and with the last shot comfortably in their hands.
“We made some mistakes, especially down near the end of the game, and we still gave ourselves a chance and an opportunity to win,” said Mavericks guard Mike James, who collected 10 points and five assists. “We just weren’t able to finish it off.”
With Tim Duncan pouring in 28 points and grabbing 19 rebounds, the Spurs led by as many as 13 points (54-41) early in the third period. But the Mavericks kept battling and battling until they got what they wanted — a good look at the basket from Carter with the game on the line.
“It felt good,” Carter said. “It never sits well with me, regardless of if it’s a good shot or not. We’re playing for so much that I needed it to go in, plain and simple. I pride myself on being fearless and not afraid to take the big shot.”
The Mavericks outshot the Spurs from the field 44.6 percent to 44 percent and only turned the ball over 13 times. But once again, they couldn’t walk off the court with a victory over their I-35 nemesis.
“We had a four-game winning streak,” James said. “Now we’re going back home after this tough road trip and we’ve got to get right back on the home horse again, and get this bad taste in our mouth right now, because we had a great opportunity to win, but we didn’t.
“We got something to play for [tonight] and we’ve got to play inspired ball against Cleveland at home.”