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Friday, November 29, 2013
Why go to Carter with game on the line?

By Tim MacMahon

To be fair to coach Rick Carlisle, the Dallas Mavericks didn’t seem to have any decent offensive options in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s frustrating loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

After all, the Mavs had more turnovers (five) than field goals (three, on 19 attempts) in the final frame, which is a pretty good recipe for letting a 13-point lead early in the quarter evaporate.

Their go-to guys didn’t get the job done. Dirk Nowitzki was only 1-of-5 in the fourth quarter and had missed three midrange jumpers in the previous three minutes. Monta Ellis, whose back has been bothering him, was 0-of-4 with two turnovers in the fourth.

Vince Carter
Vince Carter's tough 22-foot miss at the buzzer was the culmination of a 3-for-10 night from the field.
But it was still strange logic to put the ball in Vince Carter’s hands on the final possession and ask the 36-year-old sixth man to pull out the win. The result: Atlanta 88, Dallas 87.

"We were looking to get Vince the ball and get him a good shot," Carlisle said, offering no elaboration on the thought process behind the play call.

They got Carter the ball. He did not get a good shot -- a contested 22-footer that didn’t even draw iron and thudded off the backboard below the rim as the buzzer sounded.

It was an ugly ending to a hideous offensive quarter for the Mavs, who looked lost after point guard Jose Calderon left the game due to a right-ankle injury that puts his status in question for Saturday’s home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

On the final possession, Nowitzki set a pick for Carter on the block opposite of where Shawn Marion was inbounding the ball. Carter came up through the key to catch the ball on the right wing, with both of his feet on the 3-point line. After pausing for a second, Carter launched a heavily contested, off-balance jumper.

Nowitzki was a spectator on the weak side after setting his pick. Ellis was just in the way. After being double-teamed before the inbounds pass, Ellis ended up a few feet to Carter’s right, allowing his defender to easily clog Carter’s path to the basket if he wanted to drive to his right.

Even with Nowitzki and Ellis struggling down the stretch, it was a puzzling decision to put the game in Carter’s hands, and perhaps Carlisle wasn't completely honest about the intent of the play.

After all, Carter has struggled basically all season, shooting just 38.3 percent from the floor. And he’s had an awful week, going 9-of-33 from the floor (27.3 percent) in three games.

Carter has hit a bunch of clutch shots in his career, but he’s a complementary player at this point in his career, not a crunch-time, go-to guy. According to NBA.com’s stats, Carter was 2-of-8 last season in the final 10 seconds when the score was within three points. He’s now 0-for-2 this season.

It’d be wise for the Mavs not to go back to that well the next time they need a bucket to win a game.