Commentary

Jason Terry has Celtics covered

After playing stellar defense, 3-point specialist finds more familiar range

Updated: March 9, 2013, 2:32 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- There's a case to be made that Kyle Korver is the single biggest reason Rajon Rondo tore his ACL. If it wasn't for Korver's 3-point barrage during the Celtics' visit to Atlanta in late January, it's unlikely Rondo would have been on the court late in the game when he suffered the injury (all while Boston fumbled away a 27-point lead and lost in double overtime).

With Korver and the Hawks in town on Friday night, Celtics coach Doc Rivers put a special emphasis on slowing Atlanta's 3-point specialist. Rivers' secret weapon? Jason Terry.

Sure, the numbers suggest that Terry is far and away Boston's worst individual defender among its top rotation players. But he thrives when challenged, so Rivers asked him to babysit Korver during Friday's game.

[+] EnlargeJason Terry
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJason Terry's go-ahead 3 late in overtime was the capper on a solid all-around night.

Terry responded by limiting Korver to 1-of-5 shooting and three points over 38 minutes of floor time. In fact, Terry would have played the key role in snapping Korver's franchise-record 54-game streak with at least one 3-pointer if not for a triple that tied the game when Terry and Jeff Green got caught in a switch with 91 seconds to play in regulation.

Unfazed, Terry rebounded to hit a clutch triple of his own in the overtime session, scoring the game's final five points while lifting Boston to a 107-102 triumph at TD Garden.

"Jason had 19 points, but I thought the thing he did better than anything was he guarded Korver," Rivers said. "And he was like glue, he just stayed on him, took away his shots. I think Korver ended up getting the one 3 -- he had that streak going, so we were trying to end that dang streak and he got it late in the game. But I just thought, overall, [Terry's] defense was huge for us tonight."

Making 3-pointers? That's old hat for Terry. Defending against them? That's not exactly his specialty.

According to Synergy Sports data, Terry is allowing 0.864 points per play, ranking in the 49th percentile among all NBA players. Of Boston's top 10 rotation players, the only one even close to him is Chris Wilcox at 0.82 points allowed per play, which ranks in the 67th percentile.

Terry's assignment on this night? Guard one of the league's most efficient scorers in Korver, who averages an elephantine 1.173 points per play, which ranks third in the league among players with at least 150 offensive possessions. Korver tops the NBA in 3-point percentage and is fourth in total 3-point makes.

Yet for 46½ minutes, Terry helped Boston pitch a shutout. He got burnt once at a key moment, but Terry was pleased with his effort.

"I took the challenge very personally," Terry said. "Last time, [Korver] was the difference in that game -- guy scored 20-something points in a half -- and we take that very personally. Again, our identity is defense first. They put the onus on me tonight to stay with him and try to make it tough on him. I was able to do so."

Less surprising is how Terry came through in the clutch offensively. While that's been his career calling card, he has been surprisingly quiet this season as far as big-moment shots.

But Terry has been a more consistent contributor of late, and on Friday he stepped up in a key spot. With the game tied at 102 in overtime, Korver got caught cheating away as Paul Pierce went isolation from the left wing. Terry alertly slid to a vacated spot and had to come back a bit as Pierce threaded a pass to the top of the key from below the hoop. Before Korver could recover, Terry buried the triple for a three-point lead with 35 ticks to go.

There was never any hesitation for Terry, who finished with 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting, making three of the four 3-pointers he put up. Terry added five assists and four rebounds over 36 minutes.

"Shoot it. Shoot it and make it," Terry said of what he was thinking when Pierce kicked the ball out to him in overtime. "For some reason I just knew Paul, when he went baseline, he was going to draw a lot of attention, and he made a great pass to me and I was open. "

Next trip down, Terry dipped into the veteran toolbox and slipped free from Korver again after faking like he was going to set a pick for Pierce to drive. Terry ended up drawing a shooting foul and made both freebies to ice the game.

"That was all Paul," Terry said. "He was acting as the point guard at that position, and he literally told me as we walked up the floor, 'Slip this one.' I slipped it, and he put a pass on the money, got the two free throws."

"[Terry is] so clever," Rivers said. "That last play, where Paul was laughing at where Jet got the foul, we've been trying to get Jet to slip that [screen for] literally a quarter. He kept setting a pick and they were showing, so if he slips, he'll be open. And he finally did it and got the shot. So that was great."

With Terry's help, the Celtics have produced games with at least 10 3-pointers six times in the past 12 games -- and that's something they hadn't done at all the first 49 games of the season. Terry kept it light while discussing the turnaround.

Terry noted how players have settled in at various spots on the floor and are looking for high-percentage shots. After describing some of his teammates' favorite spots on the floor, Terry playfully deadpanned, "I'm good from anywhere."

With his defense on Korver and his big shots on offense, Terry was good everywhere on Friday.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE