DALLAS – With his bald head and gray whiskers creeping into his beard, Vince Carter gleefully looked across the American Airlines Center court during pregame warmups.
The 35-year-old Maverick counted not one, not two, not three but four New York Knicks older than him.
That, combined with the fact that his jumper felt as good as it had all season, suddenly made Carter feel young again, never mind his sore right hamstring.
“My body didn’t feel good, but my shot felt good,” Carter said. “I was like, ‘Well, I’m going with the shot feeling good and the body will catch up.’”
The eight-time All-Star then turned in a turn-back-the-clock performance by scoring 25 points in the Mavs’ win over the East-leading Knicks.
“In my eyes, he’s still Half Man, Half Amazing,” shooting guard O.J. Mayo said after seeing Carter score 14 points in the fourth quarter alone. “He still has some stuff left in the tank.”
Said Carter with a smile: “Whew, sometimes. As long as they make ice tubs, I’m good.”
A few more notes from the Mavs’ win:
1. Matrix makes a difference: Shawn Marion didn’t make the trip to Madison Square Garden for the Mavs’ Nov. 9 loss due to his knee injury. He made his presence felt in the rematch against the Knicks.
Marion made life difficult for MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony, who lit the Mavs up for 31 points earlier this month. Anthony scored 23 on Wednesday night, but he was 7-of-16 from the floor and had as many turnovers as field goals.
“I’m a competitor,” Marion said. “It’s exciting. I like challenges. That’s what it’s about.”
The game came down to a Melo vs. the Matrix possession.
With the Mavs up one with 24 seconds remaining, the Knicks ran a play anybody in the building could have predicted: an iso for Anthony on the left wing. Marion forced Anthony to take a tightly contested 15-foot pull-up that bounced off the iron.
“I always like Shawn’s odds in those situations where he can play a guy one-on-one,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s the best we’ve got.”
2. Collison gets even: Darren Collison took this game personally, but that had nothing to do with the future Hall of Famer he replaced returning to the American Airlines Center.
Collison wanted to make up for his previous performance against Jason Kidd’s New York Knicks. He had four points and four turnovers while shooting 1-of-8 from the floor in the loss to the Knicks a couple of weeks ago.
“I wasn’t the Darren that I’m capable of being,” Collison said. “I really circled this game on my calendar. I really wanted to get after this game. That’s how I took it personal.”
Collison, who has had his share of struggles since a spectacular start, came up with his best performance since he helped spark the Mavs to a 4-1 start. He scored a season-high 19 points and dished out seven assists.
3. Brand, Crowder come up big off bench: Veteran Elton Brand came off the bench Wednesday for the first time with the Mavs. Rookie Jae Crowder rode the bench Monday for an entire game for the first time in his life.
They both responded to situations they surely weren’t pleased with by playing significant roles in the Mavs’ victory over the Knicks.
Brand had eight rebounds, three assists and two steals, plus four points, in 20 minutes as a reserve center. Crowder matched his career high with 12 points – all in the second half – on 4-of-6 shooting in 21 minutes.
On Brand, Carlisle said: “Elton gave us a huge lift off the bench. He was the man out there.”
On Crowder, Carlisle said: “You’ve just got to be ready. He responded like a pro tonight.”
Brand, who recently expressed concern about his minutes in a diplomatic fashion, had left the locker room by the time Carlisle’s press conference ended.
Crowder, who never got an explanation from Carlisle for the DNP-CD, hopes he proved something to his coach.
“It really showed that I’m a professional,” Crowder said. “I try to take my craft really seriously. Hopefully I got my point across.”