Jason Terry enters wayback machine
After disappointing season, his late heroics kindle memories, give Celtics life
BOSTON -- Jason Terry loves his four daughters and spends much of his NBA offseason coaching their AAU basketball teams (appropriately nicknamed the Lady Jets). But even after a woeful 2012-13 season, Terry is in no hurry to trade in his high-tops for a whistle.
With the Celtics on the brink of being unceremoniously swept from the playoffs, Terry delivered a rarity this season: One of his familiar big-game efforts, scoring nine points in overtime as Boston held off New York 97-90 in Game 4 of the teams' first-round playoff series on Sunday at TD Garden.
The Knicks own a 3-1 series lead as the only things they put away Sunday were their brooms. Game 5 is Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
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"I had every intention of trying to make an impact on the game, some way or another," said the 35-year-old Terry, who scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting with four assists over 41 minutes. One game after shuffling to a starting role to help with ballhandling, Terry returned to a bench spot and provided a much-needed spark, accounting for all but four points of Boston's reserve production.
"If I wasn't making shots, I wanted to get a steal, get a rebound, any little thing to keep it going," Terry said. "Again, I'm going to coach AAU, but I don't want to do that right now."
The quintessential Terry postseason performance was highlighted by the quintessential Terry shot. Sneaking out in transition in a tied game late in overtime, Terry found space as three Knicks defenders shaded toward Paul Pierce on the opposite wing. Jeff Green fed Terry, who pulled up in transition on the left side and splashed a 3-pointer -- his lone triple of the game -- before Jason Kidd could get out to contest.
The trifecta broke the game's final tie and Terry added a 13-foot fadeaway, two free throws (after craftily drawing a loose-ball foul call boxing out for a defensive rebound) and a layup before the final horn.
Terry's struggles this season have been well-documented. Celtics coach Doc Rivers had made Terry his first phone call when free agency opened in July and there was hope that the former Sixth Man of the Year would provide a long-missing bench spark for Boston, particularly after Ray Allen defected to the rival Heat.
But Terry, playing the first season of a three-year, $15.7 million contract, slumped throughout the regular season and straight into the playoffs. At times his defense eroded to the point that, unable to convert on the offensive end, he was a liability on the floor. He admits his trademark soaring jet celebration has been stuck in the hangar for much of the season.
Despite taxiing for much of the season, Terry picked a heck of a time to get off the tarmac.
"I've just been patient," he said. "As long as there's time on the clock, as long as there is another game, it's an opportunity for me to do something special. That's just the type of player I am. Whether I've made every shot or missed every shot, I have the same focus, the same confidence."
Rivers saw the transition 3-pointer developing and had full confidence that Terry would connect.
"That's what he does," Rivers said. "He's made so many big shots in his career -- you knew in transition [he was going to take the shot]. It's amazing, you guys don't get to see it, but when you watch all the guys, and not just Jason Terry, but when you watch them practice on the floor on their own, they work on certain shots. And that's his shot, that transition 3 is something he works on all the time.
"And you knew once he got it what he was going to do. I thought it was interesting when you watch the play, I thought Jason Kidd knew it too because you could see him coming from the basket, from them playing with each other."
Indeed, the replay shows Kidd practically skidding trying to reverse his momentum when he realized that Terry was about to pull up. He has probably seen the play a thousand times before in Dallas.
"He's a fighter," Kidd admitted. "He's a guy that's not going to give up, I've seen it up close."
While the overtime 3-pointer will be the looping hightlight on "SportsCenter," Terry made an effort to be more aggressive on Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, 40 percent of his attempts came inside the paint and he made all four of those shots. In Games 1-3, Terry attempted only four shots total in the paint (a mere 18 percent of his total shot output) and made just one of them.
You can't help but wonder if an elbow from J.R. Smith that Terry absorbed with his chin in Game 3 might have woken him up a bit. Terry was visibly angry after being floored by Smith's elbow in the fourth quarter of New York's lopsided win on Friday and he refused to comment on the play leading up to Sunday's tilt.
Smith was suspended and sat out Sunday's game. Asked about the elbow Sunday, Terry noted, "It hurt. It still hurts right now. As long as I feel that, I'll be thinking about it."
The Celtics probably wouldn't mind if that pain lasted until at least Wednesday. But the discomfort is dulled by the fact that Boston has given itself at least a chance to make the series interesting. The Knicks will have plenty of motivation as it shifts to New York and they get Smith back on the floor, but Terry swears his team won't go down without a fight.
Could Terry's 3-pointer be to the Celtics what Dave Roberts' stolen base was to the Boston Red Sox when they rallied from a three-game deficit to stun the New York Yankees during the 2004 MLB playoffs? These Celtics face an uphill battle considering their depleted roster and propensity for lulls in their play, but Terry refuses to believe it's an impossible task.
And, really, he's just fine with waiting a little longer to break out his dry erase board and markers to draw up plays for his daughter's teams.
"Maybe there's something special about us this season that says this is the hurdle we must overcome," Terry said. "We'll see if it's in us.
"It's going to be a long summer. We lived to play another day. Honesty, this felt like a Game 7 to me, and that's how it has to be the rest of the way."