'In The Groove,' Vince Leads Mavs Over Bucks

Thanks to Tuesday's 115-108 win at Milwaukee, the Mavs have won three straight roadies, four straight games and five of six. A constant? Vince Carter, who beat the Bucks by hitting three key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter on his way to 23 points ... the continuation of a Vinsanity 'groove' that is now 22 games long.

The Dallas Mavericks maintained their position three games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race by matching their longest winning streak of the season here. At 30-33, they are just three games shy of .500, as close as they've been to that mark since Dec. 21.

And Vince Carter is as large a reason as any.

Since Jan. 18, Carter has played 22 games. Including his outburst against the Bucks, during that time he's averaging 15.9 points, 48.5 percent from the field, 50.4 percent from the arc, four rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals.

''I felt in the groove,'' said Carter, who the Mavs are touting as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. ''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.''
Dirk Nowitzki scoreed 19 points and O.J. Mayo contributed 14. Rookie Jae Crowder, who last year was the Big East Player of the Year at Marquette, experienced a homecoming of sorts and also scored 14 points. (Shawn Marion missed his third straight game with a left calf contusion but hopes to be ready for San Antonio on Thursday, the final game of this trip.)

The Bucks countered with Monta Ellis' 32 points, but he had little help from backcourt partner Brandon Jennings, who scored just four points while failing to handle Dallas point guards Mike James, Darren Collison and even Roddy Beaubois, who earned rare playing time while Collison was briefly injured.

The Bucks scored 35 points in the first quarter but Dallas eventually answered with a 27-10 run to gain a 63-55 halftime edge. Dallas' lead eventually ballooned to 18. The Bucks' attempt at a late comeback was crushed by Vince when he scored 13 points in the game's final six minutes.

''He was definitely Half-Man, Half-Amazing today,'' said Mike James, old enough to remember an earlier chapter in the Vinsanity story. ''Some of them shots, I was like, 'You're not supposed to shoot that shot. But, OK. That went in. That was amazing.'''

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