Vince Carter

The Dallas Mavericks couldn’t get anything going against the San Antonio Spurs in the regular season, but come the playoffs and everything is different. They’ve taken a 2-1 lead with a 109-108 win, closing the victory with a game-winning 3-pointer from Vince Carter right after Manu Ginobili thought he had everything wrapped up for his own team.

Carter wasn’t having a special game (finished with 11 points) until he got the ball in the corner, with his team down by two points, and 1.8 seconds left on the clock. He had Manu Ginobili on him so he had time to pump fake and launch the shot, falling back into the crowd as the ball went into the net, giving the Mavs a lead in the series against the number one team in the NBA during the regular season.

Seconds before Manu Ginobili used the backboard to put the Spurs up by eight points in a game that had everything for those who love smart offenses (not the wild ones we’re seeing in the Blazers – Rockets series) going at each other. Defensive adjustments and assignments didn’t matter: Both teams kept making shots. The Spurs hit 54.3% from the field but once again couldn’t get anything going from beyond the arc, while the Mavs made 51.2% of their attempts.

The Spurs opened the game strong, leading by seven at the end of the first quarter. Tony Parker had 17 points in the first half, all of them coming on jump shots as the Spurs screens and pick & roll seemed to work perfectly. But Parker didn’t hit a single jump shot in the second half, limited to only two points. Tim Duncan finished the game with 22 points but like his point guard, was a lot more subdued during the second half of the game.

The interesting thing about the Mavs is not relying on Dirk Nowitzki to dominate. Monta Ellis is turning out to be the perfect player to use as the shooting option next to him. Ellis scored a playoff-high for him with 29 points, despite being guarded by Kawhi Leonard. He scored 15 of his points with Leonard chasing after him, hitting 6-of-9 shots after struggling in the first two games against a bigger, more athletic player.

But the Mavs are moving the ball to the right direction. Samuel Dalembert has gained confidence early on which makes him look a lot more dominant on defense, scoring 13 points. Jose Calderon is attacking Tony Parker to finish with 16 points and Dirk Nowitzki, even on a quiet night, finished with 18. The Spurs aren’t getting the special effort from their bench they’ve gotten used to, and haven’t been able to free up Danny Green to hit some shots, finishing with 3 points.

Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle according to some are the real heroes of this series with their battle of wits and adjustments that keep on coming. However, a lot of times it comes down to execution, and the Spurs haven’t been doing it very well or looking slightly stunned when the Mavs make runs at them. Vince Carter made his head coach look like a genius with his game winner from the corner, although it had a lot more to do with skill and luck than anything drawn on a board.

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