DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki had the only miss in a final minute filled with clutch shots by Dallas and San Antonio, topped by Vince Carter’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the Mavericks a Game 3 win.
It was the 7-foot sharpshooter’s third straight playoff game with less than 20 points, something that hasn’t happened since his first postseason in 2001, also against his rival from South Texas.
Yet, the Mavericks have consecutive wins over the top-seeded Spurs after losing 10 in a row to them, and a 2-1 first-round series lead heading into Game 4 on Monday night in Dallas.
“You take something away, you give something up,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “You can’t stop everything. You’ve just got to stop it more than the other team does.”
Popovich and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle are harping on defensive stops after the Mavericks’ 109-108 win Saturday. Carter’s improbable pump-fake 3 with just 1.7 seconds to get off a shot was the ninth straight possession to end with points in the final 1:37. Both teams shot better than 50 percent.
Dallas’ Monta Ellis had seven of his game-high 29 points in that closing stretch, including a floating jumper for a three-point play after he got fouled and a high-arching runner over the outstretched arm of Tim Duncan.
“We stole one,” Nowitzki said. “We didn’t execute quite as well as we did in the first two, especially the defensive game plan. I think Monta and Vince bailed us out a little bit the last couple of minutes with some great plays.”
Carter’s shot came 10 years after Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Spurs by somehow swishing a desperation toss at the basket with even less time remaining, 0.4 seconds. That Game 5 win was the third of four straight for the Lakers in the second round when San Antonio was the defending NBA champion.