Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks know all too well the feeling of defeat in the Western Conference playoffs. In 2007, the Golden State Warriors dismantled the top-seeded Mavs, becoming the first No. 8 seed to win a best-of-seven series in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The 2014 Mavericks were trying to become the second team to do just that.
With the series tied at 1-1, the Mavericks had a pivotal Game 3 against the San Antonio Spurs. A close game throughout, the fans at American Airlines Center saw the game coming down to the wire in the fourth quarter.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili seemingly won the game for San Antonio after hitting a tough lay-up to take a 108-106 lead with 1.7 seconds left. The Mavs call a timeout, and head coach Rick Carlisle goes to work on drawing up a play.
Obviously the ball would be in the hands of either Monta Ellis or Nowitzki. Ellis had proven his clutch shooting with several game-winning shots during his time with the Mavericks, and Nowitzki is regarded as a future Hall of Famer and one of the best shooters in NBA history.
The Mavs run a play and Ellis goes off a screen to the top of the key, but Spurs guard Cory Joseph wisely jumps in front of him. In-bounds passer Jose Calderon makes the quick decision to fire a pass to the unsuspecting Vince Carter, who is running to the corner.
Carter fools Ginobili with a pump-fake, getting the Spurs guard in the air too early to defend Carter’s actual shot. Carter takes the shot from behind the three-point line, fading away slightly to his left. The buzzer sounds, and the ball is still in the air. Every eye in the arena follows the ball as it rips right through the rim and the net.
Hands shoot up and the arena fills with celebration as Dallas wins 109-108. The entire Mavs team runs on the floor to tackle Carter, the savior of the game.
Unfortunately for the Mavs, the team went on to lose the playoff series in Game 7, otherwise this moment might be higher than fourth on our list. But the buzzer-beating game-winner will remain one of the most memorable plays in the Mavericks’ history.