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We've seen a lot more of Jason Terry's "runway" celebration in recent games at TD Garden.BOSTON -- Jason Terry's JET nickname is no secret, but Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was quick to label him something else following Boston's 107-89 victory over the Toronto Raptors Saturday afternoon: the zone-breaker.
Toronto employed a zone defense midway through the second frame and held the Celtics to just 17 points, after they accrued 30 over the first 12 minutes. But Boston rallied in the third quarter, outscoring the Raptors 32-22, bolstered by three 3-pointers from Terry as he found the openings in Toronto's defense.
"Listen, if you’re going to go zone, you need Jason Terry on the floor, because he’s a zone-breaker," Rivers said. "And honestly, he’s played a lot of zone. In Dallas, they played a lot of zone defense, that will tell you he had a lot of practice against it. You could see that."
Terry finished Saturday's win with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting (4-of-7 from 3-point land), with his nine points in the third frame arguably the most important. His three triples came in the final 3:30 of the quarter, with the first igniting a 16-3 Boston run, which gave the C's a 15-point edge heading into the fourth and allowed the starters to remain on the bench for good.
Terry admitted he gets excited when he sees the opposition switch to a zone defense.
"No question. Terry Stotts, Dwane Casey, Rick Carlisle, all the guys I know are going to play zone, I get extra excited, because obviously, as you know, in a zone, they're going to pack it in," said Terry, listing off Mavericks coaches past and present. Casey is now head coach of the Raptors. "They don't want to give up anything inside, and shooters are going to be wide open.
"When our bigs roll hard, they have to be honored. As you've seen them at the rim, they're catching, they're finishing with dunks or layups. And when that happens, the defense has to suck in, they have to help. And as a shooter, you love it, because you know your man has to tag. The ball comes, you just have to be ready to shoot."
Not only was the third-quarter run Terry started crucial to Saturday's outcome, it may serve dividends Sunday, when the Celtics wrap up another back-to-back in Detroit against the Pistons. Because they weren't needed in the fourth quarter, Kevin Garnett played just 17 total minutes Saturday, while Paul Pierce logged just under 26.
In the five games since he entered the starting lineup against the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 10, Terry has averaged 12.2 points on 57.1 percent shooting (including 47.4 percent from 3-point range). Terry didn't suggest his move to starter brought about more consistency all by itself, but it has resulted in more opportunities.
"Whether it's starting or coming off the bench, it's all about opportunity," Terry explained. "When the opportunity presents itself, you have to take advantage of it, and I think for me this year on this team, the looks that I'm going to be getting are different. They're not in my comfort zone or where I usually get my offense, so I have to be patient and take what comes to me. But when it comes, take them like it's the game-winning shot."
As much as Saturday's win highlighted Terry's ability to impact a box score, it also showcased the camaraderie he shares with his teammates. On top of being a zone-breaker, he often engages in what he refers to as "swag check" with his teammates -- small celebratory moves that happen after a big play or when a teammate needs a lift. Some of it's his own, like when he unleashes his runway swoop following a 3-pointer, but most of it is directed at other players, like the bicep flex he flashes to Brandon Bass, or the chest swipe he shares with Jeff Green.
As Terry puts it: "That's my role here. I call it swag check. If there's a point in a game where a guy looks like he's struggling a little bit, I go to him and we all know each other's little routine. Jeff is Iron Man, opens up his chest; Rondo, we pick up the money off the ground; Brandon Bass is the muscle-pound, man. Of course, I'm the takeoff runway guy. KG is nothing, sheer, just, silence -- mean-mug. That's what we've got for him. And [Pierce] is The Truth. You'll hear us yelling out, 'Truth, Truth, Truth, Truth,' like that. So, we all have our own unique nuances, but it makes the game fun."