Doc Rivers was openly gushing about Terry’s contributions to this year’s squad after Friday’s lopsided win over the Trail Blazers when Rivers noted, “He should be our worst defender, by far. Yet, when you watch the film, he rarely shows up doing something bad defensively because he’s so darn competitive.”
Twenty-four hours later, Terry got caught doing something bad defensively, wandering from his man while trying to help contest a potential go-ahead 3-pointer on the Bucks’ last possession of Saturday’s game in Milwaukee.
While Terry was well-intentioned, he made the critical error of sprinting out at Marquis Daniels (who made a grand total of 10 trifectas in 138 games over three seasons with Boston) and leaving sharpshooter Brandon Jennings (he of 372 triples over the past three seasons).
Daniels, with multiple green jerseys in pursuit, made a nice leaping feed from the right corner to find a wide-open Jennings, who drilled a straight-away 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining as Terry scrambled to recover. Compounding matters, Terry misfired on a last-gasp 28-foot 3-pointer at the other end, the shot off just enough to allow the Bucks to emerge with a 91-88 triumph at the Bradley Center.
Terry didn’t run for cover after the late-game woes.
"Being a 14-year veteran, I can't make that crucial mistake and leave Brandon Jennings in the end," Terry told reporters in Milwaukee. "I told everybody that I'll take this one on my shoulders.”
While praising Terry on Friday, Rivers noted that Terry’s ability to make up for his lack of defensive prowess with pure grit was “a great lesson for some of our younger guys.”
What Terry did in absorbing the blame for Saturday’s loss might have been an even better lesson for those young players.
The 35-year-old Terry, inked to a three-year deal at the full value of the mid-level exception this offseason, is a stand-up guy. He hasn’t shied away from the cameras or microphones at any point this season, even with inconsistent play out of the gate. And Rivers contends Terry's value can’t be measured just by what he does on the court.
“Jason Terry is like Kevin [Garnett] in a lot of ways,” Rivers said on Friday. “Everybody should coach him once, really. He’s just a joy. He’s just fun. He plays hard.”
Rivers didn’t back down from his statement after Terry’s rough final 24 seconds in Milwaukee.
"He was great. Like I said [Friday], every coach should coach Jason Terry at least once,” Rivers told reporters. “I mean, he's the perfect kid. He doesn't play perfect basketball, but he has a perfect heart. A lot of good things."
Terry did a lot of good things on Saturday night. With Boston playing without Rajon Rondo (suspension), Terry served as primary offensive facilitator, finishing with a season-high 11 assists to go along with 15 points, three rebounds, three steals, and just one turnover over 40:27.
And for much of the game, Terry did an admirable job pairing with Courtney Lee to help limit the damage done by Jennings and backcourt partner Monta Ellis. The only glaring downside beyond the defensive miscue: Terry was 2-of-9 on 3-pointers, missing a pair of triples in the final 12 seconds.
"It just hurts, for me to be in that position and not to either make a shot or not to make a defensive play,” Terry told reporters. “So, again, I take this one on me -- no problem. But I bet you I'll battle back next week."
Who in their right mind would bet against him? Especially with his track record.
Terry has been thrust into a bit of a tough spot, forced to play 12 of Boston’s first 17 games as a starter. That’s more starts than he had combined in the past two seasons (11) and his next start will give him his highest season total since the 2007-08 campaign (when he started 34 games for Dallas).
Rivers acknowledged that he prefers Terry’s offense off the bench, and he’s still trying to figure out the best way to integrate him. Through it all, Terry is averaging 11.7 points, 2.3 assists, and 1.8 rebounds over 28 minutes per game.
But dig deeper and Terry’s offensive numbers shine a little bit more. Terry is averaging 1.118 points per play, ranking in the 95th percentile among all NBA players (that’s the highest point-per-play standing on the Celtics aside from Chris Wilcox, who ranks in the 99th percentile but has 30 percent of the plays of Terry), according to Synergy Sports data.
Terry’s defensive numbers have actually started to bounce back this past week, and he’s allowing 0.848 points per play this season, ranking in the 53rd percentile (just last week, Terry was up at 0.898 and ranked in the 36th percentile). As Rivers noted, he’s simply so competitive that it masks his deficiencies, particularly at an advanced age.
Yes, Terry got burnt on Saturday night and it probably cost the Celtics a win. But it’s easy for Rivers to dismiss the transgression. By season's end, Terry will likely have won Boston more games in the closing moments than he’ll have lost.