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Monday, February 13, 2012
Neck-and-neck: Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant?

By Jeff Caplan

Vince Carter passed Michael Finley last week to move into 18th place on the NBA's all-time 3-pointers made list. With three more tonight, he'll zoom into 17th place.

Of course, Carter could land right back in 18th after Kobe Bryant closes up shop against Atlanta on Tuesday night.

The two are neck-and-neck in the career 3-point race with Kobe, in his 16th season, currently 17th with 1,460. Carter, in his 14th season, has 1,458. Adding more drama is No. 16 is also active. Orlando guard Jason Richardson, in his 11th season, has 1,461. The Magic play Minnesota tonight.

So it is possible that Carter could actually move all the way up to No. 16 after the Mavs play the Clippers tonight. Or Bryant could get there Tuesday. Or Richardson could hold off both. For now. Or maybe all season.

Carter has somewhat surprisingly been the Mavs' most accurate 3-point shooter throughout the season at 45.6 percent. His 68 attempts rank second on the team, but are not even half as many as Jason Terry's 154 attempts. Yet, Carter has made just 27 fewer 3s than Terry.

Compared to Kobe, Carter's 31 3-pointers are just 11 off -- Kobe is 42-of-141 for 29.8 percent -- and on 73 fewer attempts.

Carter has shot 40 percent or better from 3-point range three times in his career, but he hasn't hit that lofty mark since 2004-05 (40.6 percent) when he split the season between Toronto and New Jersey. Twice with the Raptors, in 1999-2000 and 2000-01, he recorded 40.3 percent and 40.8 percent, respectively.

His accuracy and efficiency this season don't appear to be a fluke.

After going 0-of-3 against Oklahoma City -- which followed a 5-of-7 performance in the previous game -- he is 7-of-14 in the last five games. He has been discriminating with the long ball and proficient in canning it in key situations.

But, which player among the three stands the best chance to finish the season in 16th place (or 15th, depending how Mike Bibby, playing for the New York Knicks and with 1,504 career 3s, finishes the season)?

Kobe is the logical pick, if he finds his range, and then Richardson (43-of-106, 40.6 percent this season) on sheer volume. Kobe averages 38.4 minutes a game, nine more than Richardson and 15 more than Carter and also averages the most 3-point attempts per game, 5.0 to 4.6 to 3.0, respectively.

For tonight at least, Carter has a chance to capture 17th place on the all-time list -- and maybe even 16th. Or not.

But, then there's always Wednesday night against the Nuggets...