Carter had 14 points and a major role in two key surges, Shawn Marion and Elton Brand led Dallas with 17 points apiece, and the Mavericks overcame a third-quarter rally from the reeling Magic for a 111-96 victory Wednesday night.
The Mavericks were down 79-73 after leading by as many as 16 in a game they really couldn't afford to lose in their scramble to extend a 12-year playoff streak when Carter dunked on an alley-oop and hit a 3-pointer during a wild minute-long sequence that ended with Dallas in front by one.
Dallas was clinging to a 94-90 lead when Carter started a decisive 17-0 run with another 3-pointer and added three of his season-high eight assists to assure that Dallas didn't lose to a team that a night earlier lost for the 25th time in 28 games, to lowly Charlotte no less.
"We had to have that one," Brand said. "Vince has been playing great. When you put the ball in his hands, good things happen all the time. So he's finding guys diving to the rim and he's hitting his shots also."
Dirk Nowitzki had 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds for Dallas in the victory, which snapped a nine-game winning streak for the road team in the series. O.J. Mayo added 13 points and Darren Collison had nine points and nine assists.
Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 21 points, Maurice Harkness added 20, and Nikola Vucevic had 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Dallas' surge to retake the lead early in the fourth actually started with a miss by Collison, and Carter tipped the ball toward midcourt, where a scramble ensued. Jameer Nelson took the ball from Mayo with a nifty move and fed J.J. Redick, but Mayo scrambled back to block Redick's layup. Mayo went the other way and threw a long alley-oop to Carter for a dunk that woke up a crowd wondering if Dallas' faint playoff hopes were fading for good.
After a miss by Redick, Collison found Carter in transition for a 3-pointer from the right wing that generated an even louder roar, and Collison took it himself after another Orlando miss, got fouled on a drive and hit both free throws to put Dallas ahead 80-79 with 1:06 left in the third.
"O.J. made it all happen," Carter said. "It was a great recovery. We need those multiple efforts if we want to win."
E'Twaun Moore hit a 3-pointer to put Orlando ahead 82-80, but Carter answered with another from long range to put Dallas in front for good.
"I thought the timing of it couldn't have been more key to the game," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We were down six at the time and it was going to be eight. That's a huge swing."
After Carter's fourth 3-pointer put Dallas ahead 97-90, Nelson and Darren Collison got tangled up on a jump ball on the other end. Nelson ended up leaving the game for good with a left knee injury, Collison easily won the jump and Carter assisted on a short jumper by Brandan Wright. After a miss by Afflalo, Carter had another assist on a dunk by Wright for a 101-90 Dallas lead.
Carter had his third assist on the run when he stole a pass in the backcourt after an Orlando rebound and flipped the ball behind his back to Marion for a dunk and a 106-90 lead. Carter finished with a season-high eight assists, and the Mavericks had 32, one shy of their best this season.
The Magic closed a 16-point deficit in the second quarter to two, capitalizing on a 1-of-16 shooting stretch by the Mavericks after Dallas shot 64 percent in a 42-point first quarter, its highest-scoring quarter of the season.
Redick had a three-point play and another jumper to start Orlando's 21-7 run to get back in the game, but the Magic didn't score again in the first half after two free throws by Vucevic pulled them within 55-53 with 1:06 remaining.
With his name surfacing in trade rumors, Redick blew off a little steam after scoring 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting. He was 1 of 5 from 3-point range.
"For me, it's just annoying, if anything," Redick said. "No matter what happens, I want to play and not deal with this. It comes with the territory I guess. It's for the birds, though."
He did try to have a little fun with it, though.
"Three-way trade, Cincinnati Reds, Ravens and the Magic," Redick joked. "We're getting Flacco in a three-way trade. ... I'm going to the Reds to play second base."
NOTES: Dallas had its highest-scoring quarter in taking a 42-30 lead after the first. It was the second straight night the Magic allowed their highest-scoring quarter. Charlotte had 37 in the first in a 105-92 win on Tuesday. ... Mavericks C Chris Kaman was inactive, missing his ninth straight game with a concussion. He was injured when he hit his head on the court during practice Jan. 28. ... The Mavericks observed a moment of silence before the game for Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who died Monday.