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Vince Carter lets it fly, passes Larry Bird

DALLAS – Vince Carter punctuated his historic hot streak with a bewildered smile and shoulder shrug, a la Michael Jordan in the 1992 NBA Finals.

"I don't recall doing it," Carter said.

Well, the dude was unconscious at the time.

The shrug came moments after Carter swished a deep 3-pointer on the Mavs' final possession of the third quarter, a shot that bumped Hall of Famer Larry Bird down a spot to 30th on the NBA's all-time scoring list. It capped a spectacular scoring spree for Carter, who had 17 of his 26 points in the frame to make sure the Mavs entered the All-Star break with a blowout win over the sorry Sacramento Kings.

"I was wishing the quarter wouldn't end," Carter said.

The Mavs' sixth man sat out the first five-plus minutes of the quarter. His first bucket after halftime came on a tip-in at the 5:28 mark. Then the 36-year-old best known for his aerial highlights got in a ridiculous groove from 3-point range.

Carter was 5-of-7 from long range in the quarter, a hot streak that killed a Kings run that trimmed the Mavs' lead to seven. He hit another one the next possession. And then he really got rolling in the final 68 seconds.

The Mavs closed the quarter with a 9-0 run -- all on Carter 3s.

"You feelin' it like that, let it fly,” Shawn Marion said.

"It was fun. He got hot there and we needed it," Dirk Nowitzki said.

"A groove like that as far as shooting? It's been a while," said Carter, who was 9-of-15 from the field and 6-of-9 from 3-point range for the game, which he finished with 21,796 career points.

It's not as if Carter's big night came out of nowhere. He has provided consistent scoring punch off the pine this season, averaging 13.0 points, and has had five 20-plus-point performance since New Year's Day.

Coach Rick Carlisle raves about all the things Carter does for the Mavs other than score. He's an underrated defender who leads the team in charges drawn, an unselfish, effective passer and a locker-room leader who embraces coming off the bench despite being an eight-time All-Star.

But Carter will go down in history as one of the best scorers in the history of the game. And he's far from a has-been just hanging on in the NBA. He's one of the league's most explosive sixth men, still capable of taking over for stretches.

"He's been a great player in this league and he still has the ability to have stretches where he can be that kind of great player in terms of his high impact with streaks of shot-making, some of the playmaking things that he's able to do," Carlisle said. "It'd be hard to tell you how important he is to our team. It's so important.

"He's still a special player."