MILWAUKEE – Vince Carter may not be able to throw down big dunks like he used to, though he can still knock down big shots.
Carter hit three key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and scored 23 points off the bench as the Dallas Mavericks won their fourth straight with a 115-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
"I felt in the groove," Carter said. "The basket just seemed extremely big, and I felt comfortable with my shot. I was just in the flow of the game. A couple of shots, once I let them go, I happened to look down and see the 3-point line was up there. Oops. I know if I don't make them, Coach is going to yell. But I was just prepared. I had my feet set, in rhythm, just in attack mode."
Carter scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to help the Mavericks match their longest winning streak of the season. They have won five of six.
During that stretch, Carter is averaging 17.2 points while shooting 55.5 percent from beyond the arc. Not bad for a guy who used to be known more for his dunking skills than his long-distance shooting.
"He was definitely half-man, half-amazing today," said guard Mike James. "Some of them shots, I was like, 'You're not supposed to shoot that shot. But, OK. That went in. That was amazing.'"
The Mavericks, who are three games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race, know now is the time to get going if they are to make the postseason for the 13th consecutive time.
"We know time is short, and urgency is high," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We're going to let it all hang out. We're going to throw the kitchen sink at everybody, and we're going to hit every arena with guns blazing. That's just how it's got to be."
Dirk Nowitzki added 19 points, 17 in the first half, and 11 rebounds, while O.J. Mayo had 14 points. Mavericks rookie and former Marquette star Jae Crowder, last year's Big East player of the year, was one off his career high with 14 points.
Monta Ellis scored 32 points for the Bucks, giving him 20 or more in all six of Milwaukee's games this month. Ellis has been putting up big numbers since the All-Star break, averaging 23.7 points.
"That's one thing I did evaluate when I went back home for the break," Ellis said. "I was taking too many jump shots. I was settling. I wasn't really driving like I used to. I'm just trying to get back into it."
Mike Dunleavy added 18 points while J.J. Redick had 17. Larry Sanders had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
After being on a tear the last five games offensively, Bucks guard Brandon Jennings was held in check. He scored four points — matching his season low. Jennings played less than 3 1/2 minutes in the final quarter.
The eighth-place Bucks missed a chance to gain ground for the sixth seed in the East, with both Boston and Atlanta losing Tuesday night. The Bucks are a game behind both teams in the playoff race.
"Every time you lose a game now being in the position we are in, it has significance," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "We are trying to climb up and because we are trying to secure our spot, it definitely stings a little bit."
The Bucks set the high-scoring pace early with a season-high 35 points in the first quarter and led 35-28. The Mavericks stormed back, finishing the second quarter on a 27-10 run to take a 63-55 lead into the break. They never trailed in the second half.
The Mavericks opened the second half on a 12-2 run to extend their lead to 18. The Bucks countered with an 11-0 run to cut the lead to 77-70 midway through the third.
Dallas was able to push its lead up to 90-79 heading into the final period.
Dallas went up 14 early in the fourth, but Milwaukee responded with a 7-0 burst to cut the lead to 98-91. Carter then drained a 3 with 5:30 left to push the lead back to 10, and after Milwaukee cut it to 101-96, Carter answered with another 3 with 4:16 left.
The Bucks cut the lead to 106-100 on Ellis' layup before Carter hit his third from behind the arc in the quarter with 2:27 left. Carter sealed the victory with a layup with 1:39 to play.
"We knew this was going to be one of those persistence games, where you've got to keep chipping away, and you've got to keep hanging in," Carlisle said. "They did, and they deserved to win."
Notes: Mavericks forward Shawn Marion missed his third consecutive game with a left calf contusion. ... Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was out with a turf toe injury. He is listed as day-to-day. ...The Mavericks have won for just the seventh time ever in Milwaukee. . Crowder said he felt comfortable playing his first game back in Milwaukee since Marquette senior night a year ago. "I played a lot of games here in this arena," Crowder said. "I just played pretty free. And whenever the opportunity came for me to knock down a shot or play good defense, I stepped up."