Fresh Fit: Vince Carter in crunch time?

Our weekly look at Mavs newcomers:

Vince Carter’s role in the Mavs’ revamped, Lamar Odom-less rotation is clear. He comes off the bench at small forward, allowing Shawn Marion to slide to power forward when Dirk Nowitzki comes off the floor.

The question is whether Carter or Marion will join the Mavs’ closer committee of Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry during crunch time.

Coach Rick Carlisle’s answer in Utah was Carter, who played every minute during the fourth quarter and three overtime periods. That put three of the four most prolific active fourth-quarter scorers on the floor for the Mavs, as only Kobe Bryant has more career buckets in the final frame than Nowitzki, Terry and Carter. Carter also ranks below only Bryant and Nowitzki for game-winning shots made among active players.

Of course, it should be noted that the 35-year-old Carter’s production has dipped the most by far of that closer quartet.

Carter hit a couple of big shots – a pair of 3-pointers that were critical in forcing the first overtime – but those were the only shots he hit in the fourth quarter and overtimes of the loss to the Jazz. Meanwhile, the Mavs’ most valuable defender watched from the bench.

Carlisle, as tends to be the case, was vague about the reasoning for his decision to play Carter instead of Marion with the game on the line. He mentioned that Carter was playing well, leaving out the fact that Marion didn’t appear to have much in the tank, registering only four points and two rebounds in 23:51 during the Mavs’ fourth game in five nights.

Carlisle’s decision also could have been influenced by the Jazz’s lack of an elite wing scorer. It’s hard to envision Carlisle opting for Carter over Marion in crunch time when Dallas needs to defend someone like Bryant, Manu Ginobili or Kevin Durant during the first round of the playoffs.