While you attempt to catch your breath and buckle up for another three-hour thrill ride in Monday night’s Game 4, the Mavs hope they can again rely on one of their oldest tricks in the book.
Yes, the Mavs stole a classic Game 3 Saturday from the Spurs in a white-knuckler that saw 18 ties, 18 lead changes and a remarkable two go-ahead baskets in the final two seconds. It was Samuel Dalembert’s energy. It was Monta Ellis’ aggression. And, in the end, it was Vince Carter’s amazing H-O-R-S-E buzzer-beating, corner 3-pointer with an assist from …
The play that Carter scored on has been in Dallas’ playbook for about 15 years, since their former GM and coach arrived with it in the late '90s. Back then the Mavs were just trying to find a way to scrape into the playoffs, and didn’t have many chances for game-winning shots. When the opportunity presented itself, however, Nellie would call “33 Down,” a play then designed to get an open look near the top of the key for shooting guard Michael Finley.
The stakes have increased, the coach is different, the variations have been tweaked and now it’s a play intended for Ellis, but I could still see the framework of “33 Down” as Carter’s epic game-winner unfolded Saturday at American Airlines Center. On the play – one in which Ellis hit a game-winner at Portland back in December and back-rimmed a potential game-winner at Memphis in the regular-season finale – Monta was actually open again, but inbound passer Jose Calderon chose Option No. 3 on the play, to Carter running to the corner.
Perfect pass. Deft pump fake. Swish. History.
Somewhere in Maui, you know ol’ Nellie got a big smile out of that one.
As for Game 4 you’d think it’s time for a big game from Dallas’ big German. None of us thought the Mavs would hold a 2-1 series lead over the Spurs. Especially when Dirk has scored under 20 points in all three games.
The Spurs will play their best, most physical game of the series tonight. I expect the same from Nowitzki. Keep "33 Down" handy, just in case.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.