The Mavericks’ last shot went to Vince Carter, not Dirk Nowitzki. And even the big German couldn’t argue with the logic.

That didn’t make it any easier to swallow when the plan didn’t work.

The Mavericks had one of their best defensive stretches of the year in holding the San Antonio Spurs scoreless for the last 2:30 Thursday night. But they came up just short in a 92-91 heartbreaker at AT&T Center.

The Mavericks were out of timeouts after the Spurs took the foul they had to give with 5.6 seconds to go. So they had to adlib a little bit. They ran a pick and roll with Nowitzki and Carter, who got the ball. But when Nowitzki didn’t leave the area, Carter had no choice but to rise up for the shot rather than try to create contact with a drive.

“We were trying to get the cleanest shot we could get,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And Vince is the one guy we have who can get that separation. It’s very difficult in that situation with 5 seconds to get it to Dirk in a position where he can do something with it. They’re going to be laying all over him.”

So they turned to Carter and his 3-pointer rimmed out. It was a good look, but a tough shot. And a very tough way to lose a game that the Mavericks had a terrific shot at pulling out.

“Overall I thought they (the Mavericks) played better than us,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I thought they executed better than we did. They were more physical and aggressive. We continued to play in mud like we have been for the last two weeks. It shows at the defensive end and it shows a pretty dead offense on the offensive end. We were really fortunate to win this game.”

Again, not that that’s any consolation to the Mavericks.

“It felt good,” Carter said of his shot. “But when I’m put in that position, I got to make the shot. It never sits well with me (when I don’t). We’re playing for so much, so I needed it to go in, plain and simple. We got the shot I wanted. We didn’t have a timeout, so you have to go on the fly. I didn’t feel like I forced the shot.

“I pride myself on being fearless and not being afraid to take the big shot. I’m going to hold my head up high, regardless, but it’s never set well with me. I feel like that’s my job.”