Dirk Nowitzki knows a vintage Vince Carter performance when he sees it.

So with a subtle nod, Nowitzki gave Carter the green light to take a crucial shot in the final seconds, and could not have been more pleased with the result.

Carter capped a 22-point performance with a 3-pointer that gave Dallas the lead with 6.5 seconds left, and the Mavericks held on for their third straight victory, 104-100 over the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night.

”I looked at him to see what he wanted,” Carter said of Nowitzki, who was supposed to get the shot with the Mavericks trailing 100-99. ”He gave me the nod to go ahead. Yes sir.” …

Nowitzki, who scored 25 points, said he and Carter noticed New Orleans making a defensive switch in the final few possessions, resulting in 7-foot forward Jason Smith covering Carter. When it happened just inside the final minute, Carter tried to drive on Smith, and found Mike James open in the left corner for a clutch 3 that made it a one-point game…

Elton Brand added 13 points for Dallas (25-29), which is 4 1/2 games out of the last Western Conference playoff spot with 28 games left. Darren Collison scored 11, hitting a pair of free throws with 3 seconds left for the final margin.

Eric Gordon scored 23 for the Hornets, who have lost three straight, but had only three points in the second half and lost the ball out of bounds while being closely guarded by O.J. Mayo with 5.8 seconds left, costing New Orleans a chance to set up a shot to tie or lead.

– Reported by Brett Martel of the Associated Press