ORLANDO, Fla. -- With his 36th birthday less than a week away, Vince Carter knows he can’t fill up a stat sheet or a highlight reel like he once did.
But games such as the one he turned in Sunday night in the Mavs’ 111-105 victory over the Orlando Magic show that he’s still got plenty of gas left in the tank.
Carter and Elton Brand came off the bench after the notoriously slow-starting Mavs dug themselves an 18-4 hole. A 3-point field goal by Carter provided the impetus for a 15-0 run that turned the game around.
But Carter’s biggest contribution came in the final minute with the Mavs clinging to a two-point lead. With the ball in his hands and Dirk Nowitzki, O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison all looking for him to dish off, Carter found Collison open in the corner for a crucial 3-pointer.
“It kind of has to be a quick scan and a quick decision,” Carter said of the last of his six assists. “And I saw Jameer (Nelson) kind of sagging in and helping on the roll guy."
Added Mavs coach Rick Carlisle: “It was pretty clear at that time that we needed to spread the floor. Vince penetrated, and he had three options. Darren stepped into it with a lot of confidence and knocked it in.”
After scoring a season-high 29 points Friday night in an overtime loss to Oklahoma City, Carter was just as impressive in his return to the city he now calls home and where he helped the Magic reach the 2010 Eastern Conference finals. He had 15 points in 29 minutes and helped out on defense as well by blocking three shots.
“I’m not going to say it’s not like my first couple of years in the league,” he said. “But it’s still fun. I can look up and see all my friends I haven’t seen in a while.”
With Nowitzki and Mayo unable to find a rhythm early, the Mavs needed everything they could get from Carter and Brand. The two combined for 19 points in the first half as the Mavs opened up a 57-48 lead while shooting 58 percent from the floor.
“We got an open shot and a couple of defensive stops, and it kind of got us going,” Carter said. “And once we got rolling, I think everybody on the floor started to roll.”
Collison, who has endured more than a few rough stretches since joining the Mavs over the summer, is someone whom Carter has taken under his wing.
“I said, ‘Weather the storm, live in the moment, and enjoy it.’ It’s a learning period that’s going to help him mature and grow,” he said.