|ESPN.com: BlogsColumns||[Print without images]|
MIAMI -- Jason Terry is in a 79-game slump.
The league's former Sixth Man of the Year -- brought in to provide Boston with a much-needed bench scoring spark -- has struggled to be a consistent offensive contributor, shooting 43.4 percent from the floor and 37.2 percent beyond the 3-point arc while averaging 10.1 points per game, all below his career marks (44.7, 38, 15.7, respectively).
The 35-year-old has failed to be the big-moment player, which was his calling card in Dallas, and the man nicknamed "JET" (his initials) has been forced to keep his trademark airplane celebration in the hangar for much of the season (turbulence has been a more common reference for Terry this season than any sort of soaring).
|Jason Terry and Dwyane Wade exchanged pleasantries Friday.|
And yet if there's one thing that hasn't wavered this season, it's Terry's confidence, and that of his coach in him.
Terry failed to reach double figures in scoring for the fourth consecutive game Friday night in Miami, not even LeBron James and the rival Heat able to roust him from his shooting slumber.
Terry finished 3-of-9 shooting, missing all three 3-pointers he hoisted, for six points with three assists, two steals, a rebound and four turnovers in 27:45 during Boston's 109-101 loss to Miami at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Asked whether he was confident Terry would elevate his play in the postseason, Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't even hesitate.
"I really am," he said. "I think he'll be great."
Rivers' insistence is amazing given Terry's spotty play. But inside the Celtics' locker room, Terry's confidence was on full display.
He trash-talked Boston's next opponent, joked his wife would be upset about a fourth-quarter technical he earned and suggested he'll abide if Rivers prescribes rest for him over the final games of the regular season, despite his reputation as a gamer.
Terry, frustrated at times recently about his struggles, took a lighthearted approach about his slump. Asked about how the Heat scorched the floor for 16-of-19 shooting for 41 points in the second quarter Friday, he said, "I need to catch one of those kind of games."
He might not catch it during the regular season. Despite missing only 28 out of a possible 1,129 career regular-season games (a 97.5 percent attendance rate, and he's quick to point out some of those were suspension-related and not for rest or injury), Terry said he'll abide by Rivers' orders if he tells him to take strategic rest over the final three games before the postseason arrives.
"I like to play," Terry said. "But I'm going with Doc; he's been in this position before, he knows how to handle it. This is the first time I've been 35, so I don't know."
Friday's visit to Miami was not a banner night for the 14-year veteran. Not only did his shots not fall, but he had defensive lapses, including getting abused at times by old friend Ray Allen (who scored 17 points on super efficient 5-of-6 shooting while connecting on a trio of trifectas).
With Boston resting its other veterans -- Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett sat with ankle soreness -- guards such as Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford took advantage of spot starts and combined for 38 points on 15-of-31 shooting (Crawford hot early, Lee taking the baton late).
Terry likely doesn't have to worry about either of those guys biting into his postseason minutes, but the Celtics clearly need more from him if they are going to accomplish anything in the playoffs.
Rivers downplayed Terry's struggles on this night, noting that the absence of Garnett and Pierce allowed Miami to plan a bit for Terry. Still, it's somewhat surprising that the mere sight of the Heat logo didn't inspire Terry more.
Asked about getting tagged with a fourth-quarter technical, Terry laughed and said his wife was likely going to be upset (the tech will cost him $2,000). Not that money is an issue for a player who inked a three-year, $15.7 million deal this offseason.
Ultimately, Terry can make everyone forget about his regular-season woes by cranking it up in the postseason. A few of his familiar crunch-time triples will go a long way toward giving everyone regular-season amnesia.
What's easy to overlook amid his individual struggles is that Terry is having a positive effect on the Celtics, not only as a veteran leader who clearly has the ear of the team -- he herded the younger players in the locker room after Friday's game with the goal of getting them on the early bus and off to Orlando as quickly as possible -- but also as reflected by the team's numbers with him on the floor.
For the season, Boston is plus-60 in plus/minus for the 2,123 minutes Terry has been on the court. The Celtics are minus-86 in the 1,749 minutes he's been on the bench.
Terry can make an even bigger impact if his shots start falling. Imagine the game he can talk if he regains his stroke, because his woes haven't stopped his chatter at the moment.
After dubbing Saturday's visit to Orlando a must-win for the Celtics, Terry was asked why he would put that sort of designation on a late-season battle against a non-playoff-bound team.
"Obviously, you see [the Magic] -- I don't want to give them any fuel but, they're terrible," Terry said. "So we must go in there and, with whoever we have, scrap for the win."
Yep, that confidence is still firmly intact. A normal player might have shot his way out of the rotation with Terry's struggles, but Rivers hasn't wavered on him.
The Celtics clearly believe the playoffs will be exactly the cure for Terry's season-long slump.
Statistical support for this post provided by NBA.com.