Commentary

Jason Terry is Mavs' can't-miss kid

Lakers dared guard to beat them, and he did in playoff record-tying fashion

Updated: May 9, 2011, 10:49 AM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks didn't have to turn out the lights on the Los Angeles Lakers. Jason Terry shot them out.

The second-longest tenured Mavs player, next to Dirk Nowitzki -- yet never viewed as Nowitzki's so-called "Robin" through these elusive championship quests -- is on fire. His personal postseason redemption song reached a fever pitch in Sunday's completion of this stunning Western Conference semifinal series sweep.

[+] EnlargeJason Terry
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireUntil Sunday, Jason Terry hadn't reached the 30-point plateau in the playoffs since the 2006 NBA Finals.

Terry needed 10 3-point attempts to splash a career-high and NBA playoff record-tying nine 3-pointers (11-of-14 overall from the field) and a game-high 32 points in all of 25 minutes.

He outscored the Lakers in the second quarter, 17-16, canned five 3s in the quarter and six in the first half as the Mavs led 63-39 at halftime in front of a partying sell-out crowd.

"The way they play defense -- they suck in -- you've got to be ready to spot up and shoot the shots, and that's when I'm at my best," Terry said. "Without the penetration of J.J. [Barea] and J-Kidd [Jason Kidd], those looks wouldn't have been there. I just had my feet set, ready to shoot."

When the Mavs opened the third quarter with 1-of-7 shooting and a couple of turnovers, coach Rick Carlisle summoned Terry off the bench at the 7:34 mark. At 6:52, he hit his seventh 3-pointer and followed at 6:19 with his eighth, and the party was back on and lasted well beyond the 122-86 victory.

"Jet's shot-making was breathtaking," Carlisle said.

For some reason, the Lakers never closed out on the NBA's eighth-leading all-time 3-point shooter. For that matter, they didn't close out on the fourth most-prolific 3-point shooter of all-time, Peja Stojakovic, who knocked down all six of his 3-point attempts.

With the Lakers' defense concentrated heavily on Nowitzki, the open 3s were there, and Dallas tied an NBA playoff record by making 20, five more than the Lakers made the entire series.

"That was crazy," DeShawn Stevenson said of Terry's display. "I never seen nothing like that in my life. Nine-for-10 on 3s? He's a special player."

Imagine what might have been if Stevenson and Kidd, the league's third all-time 3-point shooter, hadn't of gone a combined 2-of-10?

"And I fumbled away two or three opportunities," Terry said, shaking his head. "One early and one late."

It didn't matter. What does is that the Mavs are heading to their first Western Conference finals since 2006 with Terry playing his best playoff basketball since then, when he averaged a career playoff-best 18.9 points a game.

Through 10 games and two series wins, Terry is averaging 18.3 points for a team that has a far more diverse cast of scorers than the '06 squad. The major difference is his much-improved shooting percentages this season, but especially coming off the past two disappointing postseasons when his overall shooting was anchored below 39 percent.

Boosted by his Game 4 marksmanship, Terry is hitting at 52.4 percent overall and 50 percent (22-of-44) from 3-point range, career-high playoff levels.

"I like Game 1 of the Finals for me," said Terry, referring to the first of two 30-point games in the 2006 Finals, the last time he reached that mark in the playoffs until Sunday. "For the magnitude of this game to close those guys out, yes, it was a great game. So it goes down as one of them. I'm very thankful that I had the hot hand tonight."

The father of five girls said he felt something special when he awoke Sunday morning, Mother's Day.

"I just felt the spirit," said Terry, whose mother also was at the game. "I felt like a Game 7 to me. That's how I approached it."

Jet didn't even break out his customary, celebratory wings until he had it multiple 3s in the glorious second quarter, a sure sign that he was all business. In that quarter, he buried 3s at the 11:31 mark for a 30-23 lead, at 9:33 to make it 37-27, at 8:21 for a 12-point lead, at 7:08 to make it 47-32 and then he hit the Mavs' final bucket of the half to make it 63-39.

"Jason [Terry] has made big shots his whole career," said Kobe Bryant, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the first quarter. "He's a fantastic player."

Terry has been anything but fantastic the past two postseasons. And after the emotional roller coaster he rode in the final weeks of the season, there was no telling how Terry would perform in these playoffs.

He scored 10 points in each of the first two games against Portland, but Kidd was totalling 42 points in the two Dallas victories. Terry said he meticulously studied those game films to find spots where he could better operate. He went on to score more than 20 points in five of the next eight games.

In the postgame interview room, it was fitting that Terry joined Nowitzki, who only needed to score 17 points Sunday and was the lone starter in double figures, for the first time this postseason. As they sat down, Nowitzki typically pulled the microphone out of its stand.

"Is that what we're supposed to do?" Terry asked, looking at Nowitzki. "I'm new to this."

The only remaining members of the '06 Finals team, Nowitzki and Terry spent the interview session as they have done on the court for years, playing off one another. Their relationship has had its bumps and Nowitzki has lashed out at Terry in previous heated playoff moments.

Even during these playoffs, Nowitzki has reminded on multiple times that Terry sometimes doesn't turn up the juice until the fourth quarter, and that won't cut it on a quest for a title.

After the sweep of L.A., Nowitzki said he's always had Terry's back.

"I never lose faith in Jet," Nowitzki said. "We both have been through a lot over the last six, seven years here together and we always came back. We ride each other all the time and in games we yell at each other and then it's forgotten after the game.

"We win together and it's been a fun ride. We'll see how far we can go."

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.

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