EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Vince Carter did it again, and in a way very few people can.
The funny thing is you knew he would. You just knew it.
Maybe it didn’t look that way when the Nets were down 20 at halftime, but when they took the lead in the fourth the story had “Vince Carter” and “last shot” all over it. The question was make or miss. Carter did both, but he made the one that mattered.
Carter canned a 33-foot shot at the horn to lead the Nets to the 93-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks at Izod Center last night.
It was an amazing comeback by the Nets, who were booed early and cheered louder than in any game this season late. They showed great fight without their coach Lawrence Frank, who was thrown out on purpose to try and provide a spark.
Everyone who played in the second half — Devin Harris, Josh Boone, Bobby Simmons, Carter, Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes, Ryan Anderson and Yi Jianlian — all did something to help the Nets to the much-needed win.
But it wouldn’t have been right if someone other than Carter made the shot. If it was Harris or Hayes there probably would have been a wild celebration, but the story wouldn’t be as poetic. Someone said to me, “This story writes itself.” He couldn’t have been more right.
Consider Carter’s last 52 hours or so.
He was thrown out of the New Year’s Eve game in Detroit, needed to be restrained from going after official Derrick Stafford, who called Carter ‘boy.’ Stafford also is African-American. Carter spent New Year’s Day talking about the incident with league officials.
Yesterday morning, Carter spent some time talking to the media about what happened and he seemed like he wanted to put it behind him. But there still was the matter of what would the league do.
There was a possibility he would be fined for not leaving the court in a timely manner or suspended if the NBA felt he did or said anything that warranted that action. In the end, the league took no action on Carter or Stafford and recommended they talk in the future to iron out any differences or miscommunications.
Knowing Carter he probably will hug Stafford the next time he sees him. Last night, Carter was the one getting mobbed and hugged.
“Only Vince Carter does that,” Frank said. “You just kind of had that feeling he was going to make that shot.”
Carter missed the first in regulation with the score tied 85-85 that would have won it. He said he was fading too much. Carter didn’t miss when get got another shot.
“I had the opportunity at the end of regulation and didn’t make it,” he said. “I had another chance and didn’t want to let the team down.”
Carter felt he let the Nets down by getting thrown out in Detroit after two quick technicals.
I still don’t know what he said, but if he was in the game the Nets may have won it and he knows it. But it’s water under the bridge now, and Carter is happy the league is done with its investigation.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” Carter said. “Whatever their decision would be I just wanted to move on from it. There’s no hard feelings. It’s just a tough situation to be in, and it’s unfortunate for the team because we were in the ballgame and possibly could have won it.
“But I’m glad it’s over and I’m glad I was able to play and erase it.”
Carter needed to hit the shot, but the Nets needed the win, too. Or else Frank would have been thrown out in vain and the Nets would have lost for the eighth time in nine games at home and dropped three games below .500.
But Carter, with plenty of help in that furious comeback, made sure that didn’t happen.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).