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Carter’s stunning shot sends Mavs over Spurs

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DALLAS — Nearly standing with his heels on the sideline, guard Vince Carter sank a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the feisty, eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks a 109-108 victory over the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs on Saturday and an unlikely 2-1 lead in the NBA first-round playoff series.

It was another remarkable game played by the two longtime Texas rivals. Only moments earlier, Spurs guard Manu Ginobili delivered what looked like would be the winner, spinning home an awkward leaner over Dallas center Sam Dalembert with 1.7 seconds left.

Dallas called a timeout and designed a play. With guard Monta Ellis and forward Dirk Nowitzki bottled up, Carter broke free in the corner. He pump-faked and then let it go over Ginobili. The fallaway hit nothing but the bottom of the net and the sold-out American Airlines Center, deflated seconds earlier, exploded with excitement.

“Any pump-fake was going to have to be quick. It was a great catch and Jose (Calderon) did a great job of getting him the ball because Ginobili was denying it,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “The execution of the shot was great, obviously.

“Vince really deserves it. He’s been so good for us and he’s been about so many of the right things. You always hope a guy like that can have a moment like this in a big playoff game, so I’m really happy for him and we survived it.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the final play: “Vince made a nice shot. Manu guarded him, he did it well and Vince made a nice shot. Give him credit. There was no breakdown or anything like that. Manu was right there and he did everything he could. Vince knocked it down.”

The Mavs, who had lost nine regular-season games to the Spurs, have now won two of three in the heated playoff series and could further stun a Spurs team that won 62 games in the regular season in Game 4 on Monday night in Dallas.

“It is a very disappointing loss,” Ginobili said. “Not because we had a five-point lead. Games like this that are so close and so tight, most of the times it gets to the last play and sometimes it’s like flipping a coin. He made a great shot and they got the win, so of course it is disappointing.”

Dallas continued to frustrate the Spurs, who led 100-95 with 2:11 to go, with their switching defense while getting help throughout the lineup offensively.

Nowitzki finished with 18 points but again was not the Mavs’ primary scorer. That was Ellis, who delivered 29 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Calderon had another strong game with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field.

“I think every game right now has been different,” Calderon said. “It looks like we saw six different teams out there. Everybody is trying to get the other team to make mistakes and that is what we do as well. But it is fun. Every game has something going on in the last minute or last 30 seconds and it has been fun.”

Carter, the hero who has had all kinds of trouble just getting 3-point looks in the series — he was 1-for-3 in the first two games — finished with 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting overall. The winning 3-pointer was his lone 3 of the game on three attempts.

The Spurs are relying heavily on point guard Tony Parker, who had 19 points and six assists, and forward Tim Duncan, who scored 22 points a day after turning 38. Forward Kawhi Leonard stepped up with 17 points and five steals and Ginobili finished with 12.

Ginobili hit two free throws with 3:43 left in the third quarter and guard Patty Mills then made one of two give the Spurs a 70-69 lead, their first lead since 49-48 in the second quarter. But Dallas, as it has done all series, turned Spurs turnovers into transition baskets to flip the momentum.

“You have to give them credit, they are playing great,” Parker said. “They are shooting the ball very well and they are very aggressive. Right now, they are playing with a lot of confidence.”

The Mavericks ended the third quarter with a 4-0 spurt to head into the fourth quarter with a 77-74 lead.

Dallas used a 14-5 run at the end of the second quarter, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers by forward Shawn Marion, to take a 59-54 lead into halftime.

San Antonio scored 34 points in the first quarter but managed just 20 in each the second and third quarters against a Mavs defense that ranked in the bottom 10 of the league virtually all season.

NOTES: This was Dallas’ first home playoff game since April 2012, when it was swept in the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and it came two days after their first playoff win since June 12, 2011, when they won the NBA championship at Miami. … Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki is one of only four players (Bob Petit, Elgin Baylor, Hakeem Olajuwon) with career averages of at least 25 points and 10 rebounds in the NBA playoffs, but he entered Game 3 averaging only 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. … Mavericks G Vince Carter made more 3-pointers than any player off the bench this season but had only one in the first two games and only three attempts from beyond the arc. … Spurs F Tim Duncan is eight playoff double-doubles from tying Magic Johnson (157) for No. 1 all time. … The Spurs finished the regular season with a league-best 30 road victories and Dallas had the most home losses (15) of all the West playoff teams. … Spurs G Tony Parker is the NBA career leader among guards in postseason points, entering Game 3 with 3,338.

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