Caron Butler comes through as closer

DALLAS -- Caron Butler went from crunch-time cheerleader to closer.

Butler, who didn’t play a minute during the fourth quarter of the Mavs’ previous two wins, played a key role in slamming the door on the Miami Heat during Saturday night’s 106-95 win. Butler scored seven of his team-high 23 points in the final 3:30, making sure Miami’s comeback attempt fell short.

“I really wanted to be out there and earned that opportunity,” said Butler, who scored 12 points while the Mavs broke the game open in the third quarter.

Butler accepts that he’s part of a tag team at small forward with fellow former All-Star Shawn Marion. That means Butler will spend some fourth quarters on the bench when Marion is playing particularly well, as was the case in wins this week over the Thunder and Spurs.

He’d much prefer to be on the floor, but he won’t pout and sit on the pine. He was an enthusiastic towel-waver while Marion and the Mavs finished off road wins against the pair of Western Conference contenders.

“When you’re winning, it is what it is,” Butler said. “That was my role I had to play, to cheer other guys on. Like coach said and everybody bought into it, it’s all about winning. That’s all that really matters.”

It made sense for Marion to play with the game on the line against the Thunder and Spurs. The Mavs needed him to guard Kevin Durant and Manu Ginobili.

Points were at a premium for the Mavs down the stretch Saturday night. Butler came through while Dirk Nowitzki sputtered to the finish line after a phenomenal week, making only one of his six shots from the floor in the fourth quarter.

“He’s been a professional about it and definitely responded today,” said Nowitzki, who didn’t have his usual touch down the stretch (1-of-6 from the floor in the fourth quarter). “We needed his shotmaking ability.”

Added coach Rick Carlisle: “He’s a big-time scorer and he’s a big-time clutch player, and he’s been his whole career. He never shies away from big shots. He’s the kind of player who’s always going to play better when he’s relied upon. It’s great to have guys like that, and then on nights when the other guy at his position is playing well, he gets right behind him.”