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.
Dallas still had a chance in the closing seconds because of Ellis, who had a playoff career high that included 12 fourth-quarter points. He tied the score twice in the final 1:10, first with a three-point play on a floater after he was fouled by Boris Diaw.
After Diaw put the Spurs back in front with a baseline jumper, Ellis hit another high floater in the lane with 24.9 seconds left, setting up Ginobili’s dramatic shot.
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.”
Dalembert did most of his damage in the first half but still made his presence felt after halftime, finished 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and making two free throws for a 104-all tie after rebounding a Nowitzki miss.
The 32-year-old journeyman center dove for a loose ball to get the crowd on its feet, and then knocked Leonard to the floor when the San Antonio forward was driving for a dunk. After the play, he shook his head as if to say “don’t bring that in here.”
Referees originally called Dalembert for a flagrant foul, but reversed it on replay. Leonard missed both free throws.
“When his activity is like this, he’s rebounding it and he’s got a presence at the rim it makes such a big difference for us,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.
Calderon had 16 points, including 10 during a fast Dallas start in the first quarter. He also had nine assists.
HEAT 98, BOBCATS 85
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — LeBron James had 30 points and 10 rebounds, and the Miami Heat defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 98-85 Saturday night to take a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference first round series.
Dwyane Wade added 17 points for the Heat, who can close out the best-of-seven Monday night.
James, who was an efficient 10 of 18 from the field, pushed his record to 18-0 against the Bobcats since joining the Heat in 2010. Miami has won 19 straight overall against Charlotte.
Al Jefferson had 20 points for the Bobcats, who are still searching for the first postseason win in franchise history.
After trailing most of the first half, the Heat took a 42-40 lead on a 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers. Miami closed the half on a 16-4 run.
Norris Cole hit a 5-foot bank shot and then buried a 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Heat up by five and Miami was off to the races.
The Heat made 8 of their first 11 3-point attempts.
PACERS 91, HAWKS 88
ATLANTA — Paul George and David West hit key 3-pointers down the stretch, and the top-seeded Indiana evened the opening-round series at two wins apiece.
In a game they had to have, the Pacers 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.
Atlanta had a chance after Kyle Korver was fouled in the corner and knocked down three free throws. But George pulled down an offensive rebound to set up George Hill’s driving shot with 56 seconds left.
Pero Antic missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would’ve forced overtime.
Game 5 is Monday in Indianapolis.
George scored 24 points. Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 29.
GRIZZLIES 89, OT
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Reserve Reggie Jackson scored a personal playoff-best 32 points, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Memphis Grizzlies 92-89 in overtime Saturday night, 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.
The Thunder blew a 14-point lead with Memphis, and the Grizzlies blew a third straight fourth-quarter lead themselves. Jackson tied up Memphis with five straight points in the final minute of regulation, and he hit all six free throws in overtime as the Thunder survived an extra period with seven lead changes.
Durant’s two free throws with 1:02 left in overtime put the Thunder ahead to stay.
Game 5 is Tuesday night back in Oklahoma City.
Mike Conley missed a 26-footer just before the buzzer that could have forced a second extra period. Serge Ibaka also blocked a Tony Allen shot with 2.7 seconds left in regulation to keep the Thunder alive for overtime.
The Thunder won for only the second time in seven playoff games in Memphis, and this was just their second in eight overtimes with the Grizzlies since the start of the 2010-11 season. Oklahoma City also snapped Memphis’ franchise-record 15-game winning streak.
Ibaka added 12 points for Oklahoma City. The Thunder outrebounded Memphis 58-49 and got 12 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and overtime combined.
Marc Gasol led Memphis with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Allen had 14 points and 13 rebounds, Conley had 14 points and Zach Randolph added 11.