Jason Terry finds his game, confidence
April, 29, 2011
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Jet wouldn't be Jet without a little drama.
So, with 2:55 to go and the Portland Trail Blazers trailing just 91-87 in an eerily similar comeback march as the Game 4 debacle, Jason Terry took an inbounds pass near midcourt and promptly dribbled the ball off his hip and into the backcourt for a violation.
Eyes rolled incredulously.
"I'm just thinking about tackling him," Mavs center Tyson Chandler said. "That's my boy, though. You know I love him to death. He came down the stretch for us though. He's the type of player that can make a mistake like that and for some reason or another it gets him fired up."
Terry lucked out a bit, too. On the Blazers' ensuing possession, LaMarcus Aldridge rebounded his own 13-foot jumper and got fouled under the basket. With 2:34 to go and a chance to slice the Mavs' once 17-point lead to two, Aldridge missed both free throws. Shawn Marion made him pay with a pretty bucket and then Terry came down, made a slick move to get by Gerald Wallace and popped in a 14-foot pull-up for a 95-89 lead with 1:42 to play.
Remarkably, Terry committed a near-identical turnover with the score the same and 46.2 seconds to go. This time Wallace missed a 3-pointer, and again the turnover didn't come back to bite him.
"It was unbelievable," Terry said of his late gaffes. "Hey, that's part of adversity. In years past maybe we lose the game because of that turnover."
In years past, the Mavs lost playoff series because they didn't get what Terry provided in this series, which the Mavs closed out with Thursday's tenuous, but effective 103-96 win.
After a slow start offensively, Terry picked it up by averaging 21.0 points in the final four games. Likewise in Game 6, he missed his first four shots but never wavered, finishing with 22 points and 13 in the second half. In the early part of the series, when Terry's shot wasn't falling, coach Rick Carlisle praised him as a facilitator, and he certainly was in Game 6 with eight assists. He also had four rebounds and one turnover before those last two freak ones in 34 minutes.
It was his second consecutive 20-point game and his third in the series. In Games 5 and 6, he provided the complementary scoring to Dirk Nowitzki -- who finished with a game-high 33 points -- that the Mavs so desperately need.
"Tonight the game was in rhythm," Terry said. "I missed my first four shots, coach rolled with me, my teammates kept encouraging me to shoot and make plays and I was able to do so."
He also helped prevent the Brandon Roy magical scoring tour from taking off again in the Rose Garden. Roy hit 4 of 6 shots, but finished with just nine points and three assists in 29 minutes, a far cry from the 40 combined points he dropped in Games 3 and 4, with 24 coming in Game 4.
"Individually, hey, tonight summed it up for me, started out 0-for-4, but stick with it," Terry said. "Defensively, this probably was my best series since I've been a Maverick."
That's what Carlisle was preaching through the first two games when Terry, certainly not known as a defender who will throw anyone off their game, scored just 20 points combined. Carlisle has continually said throughout the series that Terry is playing his best all-around basketball.
"Coach has been challenging me and telling me regardless of what happens on offense, defensively we need you out, alert, really taking ownership in your matchups," Terry said. "They gave me a big assignment guarding Brandon Roy three out of the five games and I thought I held my own."
Terry's all-around contributions certainly came at a clutch time. He's coming off two subpar postseasons and he made no bones about it. Heading into these playoffs, no one was certain what to expect from him after his uneven stretch run that included several bizarre on-court occurrences.
There was the on-court jaw session with J.J. Barea and then an angry Carlisle tossing him out of the timeout huddle and banishing him to the end of the bench for the entire second half. He got hit with a flagrant foul against the Lakers and picked up a mindless technical against the Denver Nuggets. Then, of course, came the strange celebration after his missed free throw with 1.5 seconds to go and the game tied in Houston.
All of this came after an unfortunate death in the family.
So where was Jet's head? After one critical playoff series that soothed the fragile psyche of an entire franchise, the Mavs have a pretty good idea -- and they like it.
"He had a great series," Jason Kidd said. "He was shooting the ball, making plays, finding guys. Defensively, he was great. So now we got to build on it and keep him going."