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Games of the Year: Vince Beats the Spurs at the Buzzer Subscribe via RSS

The Mavericks had a host of memorable moments last season. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll rewind the tape and take a look back at five of our favorite games from the 2013-14 campaign. Comments? Suggestions? Drop us a line below.

GAME 5: Dallas 109, San Antonio 108

Box Score | Photo Gallery | Game Recap

When you think of the most iconic and significant shots in Mavs history, a few immediately come to mind. Dirk’s and-one against San Antonio, Game 7, 2006. Dirk’s layups to win Games 2 and 4 of the 2011 Finals. Jason Terry’s three-point flurry in the Game 4 blowout win against the Lakers that same season.

Add to that list the final shot of one of the best games ever played at the American Airlines Center.

You know what I’m talking about. 1.7 seconds on the clock. Dallas trailed by 2. Jose Calderon to inbound. Monta Ellis comes off the screen. Dirk runs to the top of the arc. And 37-year-old sixth man Vince Carter faded to the corner, where in less than one second he would complete the catch, turn toward the rim, gather himself, pump fake, and deliver a shot no one in Dallas will forget for years to come.

Vince Saves the Day

Vince Carter wins Game 3 with an amazing clutch corner triple to put the Mavericks up 2-1 in the series over the Spurs.

There really isn’t an appropriate term to describe the degree of difficulty of the shot, but also how significant it was. If the Mavs would have lost Game 3, there’s no telling if they would still have been able to push the heavily favored Spurs to a decisive seventh game a week later. Carter’s buzzer-beater instead put Dallas up 2-1 in the series, swinging the momentum heavily in the Mavs’ favor. But even aside from Vinsanity’s three-pointer, Game 3 was still one of gems of the entire playoffs, and one of the best games ever played in Dallas.

Spurs vs. Mavericks: Game 3

Vince Carter hit a double-pump 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Mavericks a 109-108 victory in Game 3 and a series lead over the Spurs.

Coming off a convincing Game 2 win which saw Dallas score 33 points off of San Antonio turnovers, there was no questioning the eighth-seeded Mavs’ confidence against the No. 1 Spurs. The Mavs stormed out of the gates and took a 16-8 lead, but the Spurs responded with a 15-2 run, as Tony Parker and San Antonio’s big men ran pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll.

The Spurs would lead by as many as nine points, 40-31, in the second quarter before Dallas would launch an extended run of its own. Shawn Marion hit back-to-back treys in the final two minutes to cap off a 28-14 Mavs spurt and give the team a 59-54 lead at the break.

WATCH MARK CUBAN’S POSTGAME INTERVIEW >>

This was the first true battle of wits between head coaches Rick Carlisle and Gregg Popovich. With two games of film and data to analyze, the chess match was on display for all to see. Carlisle unleashed Ellis in Game 3, and the two-guard responded by shooting 4-of-6 at the rim and finishing with 21 points. Meanwhile, Popovich’s defense continued to harass Nowitzki on the perimeter, forcing the German into awkward shots. Dirk was just 7-of-19 from the field, but the supporting cast picked up the slack and then some. Devin Harris was 7-of-9 from the field for 18 points, Marion added 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and Calderon was 5-of-10 for 12 points.

And then there was Vince Carter.

The Mavs’ sixth man was quiet by his standards for most of Game 3, scoring just one point through the first three quarters. But he scored the Mavs’ first four points in the final frame, the last of which gave Dallas an 81-80 advantage. Carter’s number wouldn’t be called, however, for another 10 minutes on the floor — through eight ties and five lead changes, Carter remained quiet. He didn’t even attempt a field goal, let alone score a point.

WATCH RICK CARLISLE’S POSTGAME INTERVIEW >>

That would all change, of course, on the last possession of the game. Manu Ginobili hit a terrific running shot to give the Spurs a 108-106 lead with 1.7 seconds left in the game, and hope seemed to be fading. But during the ensuing timeout, Carlisle introduced a wrinkle in a familiar play that would give Dallas a clean look and a chance at winning the game.

As we saw several times throughout the season, Monta Ellis would come off multiple screens on his way from the baseline up to the top of the key. Every time the Mavs ever ran that play, Ellis was the target. Every single time. So when Dallas set up the play and prepared to inbound and Popovich called time, it was obvious that he knew exactly what was going on. He drew up a defense designed to stop Ellis, not to stop anyone else.

But Carlisle didn’t have Ellis in mind. He had someone else: Vince Carter. Carlisle told his oldest player that he’d be the one to take the shot. Carter would decide the game. When he caught the ball, set his feet, pump-faked Ginobili, jumped, released, and celebrated, none of it caught the veteran by surprise. It was all business as usual.

Postgame: Vince Carter

Dallas' Vince Carter talks with the media after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Game 3.

“(Coach) said, ‘Hey, you’re going to get the ball and you’re going to knock it down,'” Carter said after the game. “I said, ‘OK, no problem.’”

The rest is history.

“I don’t mind the pressure shots,” he said. “I don’t mind taking the game-winning shot. I don’t mind missing them and dealing with it.”

Added Carlisle after the win: “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 that a guy like this can have a moment like this in a big playoff game.”

After 82 regular season games, it seems fitting that the greatest game of the season would be one in the playoffs. The Mavericks generally improved over time, week-to-week, month-to-month over the course of the 2013-14 campaign — as did their competitors in the Western Conference. We got to see 82 games of intense theater followed up by a seven-game series featuring some of the best basketball of the postseason, including maybe the single-best game of the entire year.

READ MORE: GAMES OF THE YEAR SERIES >>