Dallas Mavericks forward Vince Carter is long removed from the days when he could hurdle centers with ease for spread-eagle dunks. He entered the league five years after Bradley Beal was born, but when they were matched up in the fourth quarter of the Washington Wizards’ 103-94 lossTuesday at Verizon Center, Carter showed that savvy and skill can still trump youth on occasion.
Carter spun around Beal, adding some more lessons to Beal’s rookie notebook, and was fouled as he made a layup with less than five minutes remaining that all but ensured the end of the Mavericks’ six-game losing streak.
“I was telling him the whole time, ‘You can still jump high as you used to,’ ” Beal said afterward. “He was like, ‘Oh, I’m getting old.’ I remember him a little bit, all the spectacular dunks he did, and he still has some of that athleticism.”
Carter scored a game-high 23 points and punctuated the win when he drove down the lane for an emphatic one-handed jam with a little more than a minute remaining to remind those who might’ve forgotten how he used to test the laws of gravity.
Beal matched his career high with 22 points on a night when the team handed out his bobblehead doll. But in a symbolic and frightening example of the frustration that this miserable campaign has wrought for Wizards supporters, a fan apparently tossed a Beal bobblehead from the upper deck. The doll shattered, with shards ricocheting and hitting one onlooker in the lower bowl in the left ear.
The Wizards (4-25) also went to pieces during a forgettable third quarter, when the Mavericks scored Carter’s age (35) while the Wizards matched Beal’s (19) and Dallas took control of a game that Washington led by 14 points in the first half.
“Third quarter, they came out and kind of blitzed us pretty good there,” Coach Randy Wittman said after his team lost to the Mavericks for the second time this season. “This is a veteran team with guys that have won a championship. They were a wounded team, coming in here, this was a big game. Carter came in from a veteran standpoint and kind of led them.”
The Mavericks (13-19) became the third team in the past three weeks to take on the Wizards while riding a lengthy losing streak. The Wizards had already helped the Los Angeles Lakers end a four-game skid and the Detroit Pistons snap a six-game slide.
Dallas entered Tuesday’s game having lost six games in a row by an average of 19.2 points despite the return of all-star forward Dirk Nowitzki in the past five games.
Nowitzki entered the game in a horrific slump, connecting on just 32.4 percent of his shots from the field, but he finished with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 17 minutes as he claimed his first victory since coming back from offseason surgery on his right knee. He buried back-to-back jumpers over Wizards reserve Jan Vesely to conclude a 22-11 run over the final seven minutes of the third period.
“We wake up the beast,” Nene said of Nowitzki. “All these games, Nowitzki didn’t score, why he going to score tonight? New year, probably.”
The Wizards started 2013 the same way they ended 2012, but they couldn’t have asked for a better beginning against the Mavericks. They led 39-25 when Kevin Seraphin (10 points) made a jump hook with 8 minutes 44 seconds left in the second quarter.
It was only the third time this season that the Wizards led by at least 14 points in a game, but the advantage quickly vanished, as they got complacent and careless. Dallas got within 52-48 at halftime, then used a 9-0 run in the third quarter to take the lead for good.
Shawn Marion hit a fadeaway jumper, then knocked over Nene to steal a bad pass by Martell Webster and dunked to put Dallas ahead, 61-58, forcing Wittman to call a timeout. The Wizards appeared out of sorts the rest of the period, with the team committing six turnovers, including a five-second violation while trying to inbound. Beal slouched his shoulders when he hit the side of the backboard on an open jumper.
“That’s something we have to learn. When we’re up 10, we have to keep playing,” Seraphin said. “We get lazy.”
Emeka Okafor continued his stellar play, recording his fourth double-double in the past five games with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Wizards, however, fell to 0-4 when he has at least 10 points and 10 rebounds. Webster had 14 points but Nene had a rough outing, scoring just seven points with five rebounds in 25 minutes.
Leading scorer Jordan Crawford returned after missing the previous game in Chicago with a sprained left ankle but he didn’t provide his usual spark off the bench. Crawford scored nine points in 24 minutes, his lowest point total since being held to five points on 2-of-10 shooting in the loss to the Lakers.
Garrett Temple got his second straight start at point guard, but he had a fouled-plagued outing and finished with just six points, three rebounds and three assists. He had just one turnover, tossing the ball off Marion’s back with the Wizards trailing by seven with 90 seconds remaining. Carter then responded with his turn-back-the-clock dunk.
“That last dunk. You can’t really say nothing, but cheer for him,” Beal said. “In amazement.”