Final Score: Mavericks escape from New Orleans with 104-100 win

USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks pick up their second win in two tries of the post-All-Star break schedule.

It was already a great night for Vince Carter, as he pulled up for a three over Jason Smith with less than a dozen seconds left in the game. He already had 19 points and nine rebounds and had passed Gary Payton for 28th on the all-time NBA scoring list.

The basketball swishing home to give the Mavericks a narrow two-point advantage made Vince's night even sweeter.

Somehow, someway, the Mavericks pulled out a victory of the soon-to-be New Orleans Pelicans (I'm not going to call them the Hornets this entire recap, just so you know). It was a little rough and a little rocky, but our own Josh Bowe said it best: "I don't care how the Mavericks win this game. When you're a bad team, any win is great."

The first quarter was a strange one, as the Mavericks shot over 70% in the period while playing good defense but stymied their own excellence by allowing eight offensive rebounds. In all honesty, though, the six point lead at the end of the quarter was quite surprising. The Pelicans missed several easy looks around the rim - even a breakaway dunk - that helped Dallas out.

The Mavericks were able to stop the rebounding in the second quarter, but in the process forgot how to shoot. Shooting just 27% allowed New Orleans to retake the lead.

The third quarter saw the Mavericks recuperate, scoring in transition and getting some vintage Dirk early in the quarter (who we'll definitely talk in a moment). In the fourth quarter, though, the Mavericks were forced to weather the storm as Jason Smith had his way with them.

Seriously, though, the defense struggled to rotate, leaving Smith wide open for a few jumpers. He scored 10 in the quarter, and Ryan Anderson had 11. Fortunately, nobody else was able to score for the Pelicans.

Down 100-96 with under a minute to play, a play for Vince Carter fell through and Mike James was forced to jack a corner three pointer with the shot clock dwindling. I want to give a big shout-out to the basketball gods, because somehow the shot went in.

The Mavs forced a miss, and then it was Vince's time to shine. His game-winning was his fifth of the game, in seven attempts. He's made 63% of his three pointers over the past five games, including 15-of-21 in his last three.

It can't quite be expressed just how crucial Carter's been to the team this year. At media day, I hunted him down and asked him whether he felt that the spotlight was on him to be the team's main three point shooter. After all, the departed Jasons, Kidd and Terry, combined for 11 three point attempts a game last season.

Carter tied Mayo at 105 three point makes for the season, but what's funny is he deferred credit to his teammates when I asked him that question. He talked about Mayo and Collison and, if I remember right, he even mentioned Dahntay Jones.

Without a doubt, Carter is the Mavericks' MVP so far. There's the up-and-down seems-like-he-could-be-a-superstar-but-does-stupid-stuff O.J. Mayo and there's I'm-starting-no-I'm-not-yes-no-yes Darren Collison, and then there's Vince Carter, who's been steady and reliable through it all.

The fact that his first reaction was to pump up his teammates really showed the maturity he's gained since the Toronto fiasco. Carter's still prone to the superstar shot, but he's much better defender and team player than ever before.

I'm proud of the way Vince has played this season, and he deserves credit for such a great season.

Quick hitters

+ Vince may be the team's pre-break MVP, but I think we all know who's going to be most valuable over this 30 game stretch to close the season. I predicted that the All-Star break would be perfect for Dirk to finally get his legs under him, and it looks like that's the case. He scored an efficient 25 while grabbing seven boards and notching four assists, finally using the dribble to set up shots and score at the rim. Welcome back, Dirk.

+ The Mavericks have used 18 different starting lineups this season, but the current version with Bernard James playing center seems to be sticking. The rookie blocked seven shots - SEVEN - in fifteen minutes while adding four points and six rebounds. It was a pretty incredible multi-dimensional performance for the rookie considering how much he ended up playing.

+ Sarge was at the forefront, but overall, the Mavericks blocked a franchise-record 17 shots. Of course, to Carlisle, he said the Mavericks kept getting beat off the dribble.

+ Mavs are lucky Eric Gordon cooled off in the second half. He scored 20 in the first but just 3 after halftime.

+ Collison got benched with about 2 minutes to play because it appeared he wasted way too much time getting into the offense, leading to a shot clock violation. Mike James hit the big three, but to ice the game, Carlisle went back to DC to catch the inbounds and knock down two clutch free throws. He's the third best free throw shooter in the league, but calling on a player who was just benched to hit two clutch free throws is gutsy. Glad his mental mindset wasn't thrown off too much.

+ Back to Bowe's point: the score at the end of the game is all the matters these days. This far under .500, there's no such thing as style points. Hopefully, this win is a start of many good things to come.

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