MILWAUKEE--The Milwaukee Bucks could have gained ground on the three teams directly ahead of them in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
But 36-year-old Vince Carter wouldn't let them.
Carter drilled 3 long three-pointers and scored 11 of his team's final 17 points to help the Dallas Mavericks beat Milwaukee, 115-108, Tuesday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
"He was making some tough ones," Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy said. "We contested most of them, but he has the ability to do that."
Milwaukee (32-30) lost for just the second time in its last eight games and could have moved within 11/2 games of idle Chicago. The Bulls hold the No. 5 spot in the playoff chase, and the two other teams ahead of the Bucks, Atlanta and Boston, also lost on Tuesday.
"Every time you lose a game now, being in the position we're in, it has significance," Milwaukee coach Jim Boylan said. "Because we're trying to climb up, because we're trying to secure our spot -- there's a lot of reasons -- so when you drop a game at home . . . it definitely stings a little bit."
Monta Ellis led Milwaukee with 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting to go with nine assists.
Dunleavy, who started for the injured Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (turf toe), finished with 18 points and J.J. Redick added 17.
Ekpe Udoh scored a season-high 14 points, but Brandon Jennings was held to a season-low four.
Jennings played the first four minutes of the final quarter and did not return. He was 2 of 7 from the floor to go with five assists and five rebounds.
"I didn't think the rhythm of the game was going real well, and I needed to pick it up a little bit, change some things," Boylan said. "I felt like we could make a little bit of a run, so it was a coach's decision to bring J.J. back in the game."
Dallas (30-33) won its season high fourth straight game with the help of a 39-12 run in the second and third quarters.
But it was Carter who stymied Milwaukee's fourth-quarter rally by hitting a three-pointer for a 101-91 lead with 5:31 remaining.
Carter missed his next three-pointer but sank the next two for a 109-100 lead with 2:27 left. He finished with 23 points.
In Milwaukee's 95-90 victory at Dallas on Feb. 26, Carter missed all eight shots he attempted and was held to just two points.
"I've been coaching in the league over 20 years now and the last time we played Dallas was the first time -- and I think only time -- that I've ever seen Vince have a bad game," Boylan said.
"I was coming into this game with a little concern because I know he takes big shots, makes big shots and puts a lot of pressure on your defense. We were able to control him in the last game, but this game, obviously he was the difference-maker."
Milwaukee cut the deficit to 111-105 on a three by Redick with 1:18 to go and had a chance to make things interesting after O.J. Mayo missed his three.
But after a 20-second timeout, Ersan Ilyasova missed a 16-foot jump shot. Carter added two free throws for a 113-105 lead, and Dunleavy then threw the ball out of bounds with :44 seconds remaining.
"When you're down, you've got to limit your mistakes," Dunleavy said. "You've got to pretty much play mistake-free on both ends."
In the second quarter, a dunk by Jennings gave Milwaukee its biggest lead of the night, 45-36, with 7:16 left. But Dallas answered with a 15-0 run.
(Boehler is a special correspondent)
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