The Dallas Mavericks are trying to climb into the Western Conference playoff picture, and more big performances from Vince Carter could help them reach that goal.
Dallas looks to match its longest winning streak of the season at four games Tuesday night as it visits the surging Milwaukee Bucks.
After 12 consecutive postseason appearances, the Mavericks (29-33) are in danger of missing the playoffs. They sit in a 10th-place tie with Portland in the West, three games out of the eighth and final spot.
Dallas, though, appears to be getting hot at just the right time thanks in large part to Carter. The 36-year-old former All-Star has gone 12 for 23 from 3-point range and averaged 16.0 points in helping the Mavericks win four of five this month.
"It's not necessarily just scoring, but, in general, I understand what's going on and I just made it my business to be locked in and want to do whatever is needed," he said.
Carter led the way with 22 points and a season high-tying nine rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench Sunday in a 100-77 victory at Minnesota. The Mavericks have won eight of their last nine when Carter scores at least 14.
"We depend on him for so much," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Playmaking off the bench, scoring off the bench, defense, rebounding. He really plays a terrific all-around game, so he's essential to whatever we're doing."
Dallas, which opened a four-game road trip with Friday's 102-99 victory at Detroit, last won four in a row Jan. 10-16, and it hasn't won three straight road games in more than a year.
"We got to keep an edge as we keep going on this trip," Carlisle said. "Each game is too meaningful with everything we've been through and everything else. We owe it to ourselves and everybody that follows us, we got to stay right in this and really focus."
The Mavericks, though, have dropped three of four to Milwaukee (32-29), including a 95-90 home defeat Feb. 26. Carter shot 0 of 8 and finished with two points that night.
The Bucks are coming off their sixth win in seven games, 115-113 at Sacramento on Sunday. Monta Ellis continued his superb play with 29 points and nine assists and Mike Dunleavy scored 13 of his 16 points after taking an elbow to the head from Kings center DeMarcus Cousins late in the third quarter.
Milwaukee improved to 15-3 when Dunleavy scores at least 13 points.
"Something like that gets you going," Dunleavy said. "I was able to knock down a couple of shots after that. It was a crazy game all things considered. We were fortunate to get out of here with a win."
Leading the team with 19.1 points per game, Ellis has averaged 26.1 on 50.0 percent shooting over the last seven games. He scored 22 last month against the Mavericks and has averaged 25.0 in his last 15 matchups against Dallas, 14 of them while with Golden State.
The Bucks may need another big effort from their backcourt after they were outscored 60-50 in the paint Sunday with Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders both out. Those players are uncertain to suit up due to knee injuries.
Ilyasova is averaging 17.4 points and 8.0 rebounds over his last 21 games. Sanders leads the NBA with 3.2 blocks per game and the team with 9.1 boards.
J.J. Redick also missed Sunday's win due to an ankle injury but expects to face Dallas.