DALLAS – Vince Carter knew right away the exact date of the last time he had a buzzer-beating try in a playoff game — 13 years ago.
It’s seared in the memory of the 16-year veteran because he missed that one. He was on target Saturday.
Carter hit a double-pump 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Dallas Mavericks a 109-108 victory in Game 3 and a first-round series lead over the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs.
With 1.7 seconds left, Carter took an inbound pass from Jose Calderon in the left corner. After a quick pump fake got Manu Ginobili in the air — moments after the Argentine guard had given the Spurs the lead — Carter released the ball just in time.
He strutted stone-faced toward Dirk Nowitzki, who was waving his arms wildly as he jumped on Carter. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban joined the celebration on the court before the automatic review confirmed the obvious: The shot was good.
And it’s one Carter said he practiced.
“May 20th, Game 7,” said Carter, referring to an 88-87 loss to Philadelphia in the 2001 Eastern Conference finals when he was he was the dunking sensation known as “Vinsanity” with Toronto. Carter had graduated from North Carolina earlier that day before flying on a private plane to Philadelphia.
“I don’t mind taking the game-winning shot,” said Carter, who otherwise had a rough day before finishing with 11 points. “I don’t mind missing them, and dealing with it. So I think having that mentality helps me.”
Monta Ellis kept the eighth-seeded Mavericks close in the fourth quarter and finished with 29 points.
Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 22 points.
Game 4 is Monday night in Dallas.
Ginobili, who scored 12 points, dribbled out most of the last 24 seconds before going around Duncan and scoring over Samuel Dalembert for a 108-106 lead. His go-ahead shot spun around the rim and almost came out before falling in.
“You never think it’s over, especially in here,” Ginobili said. “We’ve got experience on that. As long as you don’t see ‘zero zero’ over there, it’s not over.”
The Mavericks kept the home-court advantage they earned by taking Game 2 in San Antonio to snap a 10-game losing streak against the Spurs.
And Dallas won despite the Spurs holding Nowitzki under 20 points in a third straight playoff game for the first time since they did it to him in his first postseason in 2001. The big German finished with 18.
Tony Parker had 19 points, but just two after halftime for the Spurs. Tiago Splitter had 14 points and 13 rebounds and Kawhi Leonard awoke from a series-long slumber with 17 points, including a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
“In the second half, I didn’t play,” Parker said. “They were doing the same thing.”
Thunder 92, Grizzlies 89 (OT)
In Memphis, reserve Reggie Jackson scored a personal playoff-best 32 points, and Oklahoma City beat the Grizzlies, tying up their first-round Western Conference series at two apiece.
Jackson had only scored 15 points combined in this series, but the guard shook off his shooting woes by hitting 11 of 16. He outscored Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who struggled through their worst scoring game of the series.
Durant was 5 of 21 for 15 points, while Westbrook was 6 of 24 for 15 points.
Marc Gasol led Memphis with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Tony Allen added 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Pacers 91, Hawks 88
In Atlanta, Paul George and David West hit key 3-pointers down the stretch, and the top-seeded Pacers evened the opening-round series at two wins apiece.
In a game they had to have, Indiana finally showed some grit. George put the Pacers ahead 86-85 with a jumper beyond the arc, and West hit another trey with 1:33 remaining.
Pero Antic missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would’ve forced overtime.
George scored 24 points in the victory.
Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 29.
Heat 98, Bobcats 85
In Charlotte, LeBron James had 30 points and 10 rebounds, and Miami defeated the Hornets to take a 3-0 lead in the series.
Dwyane Wade added 17 points for the Heat, who can close out the best-of-seven Monday night.
Al Jefferson had 20 points for the Bobcats, who are still searching for the first postseason win in franchise history.