Mavericks stay mum on bench tirade
DALLAS -- Maybe the struggling Dallas Mavericks just needed the lid to blow.
If so, shooting guard Jason Terry provided the steam Friday, launching into a second-quarter tirade in a 107-96 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. It started with him barking at teammate J.J. Barea during a timeout and followed with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle screaming and emphatically pointing at Terry before banishing him from the huddle.
Terry huffed some more as assistant coaches pushed him toward the end of the bench. Owner Mark Cuban had quickly exited his baseline seat and leaned over Terry to try to cool down his Sixth Man of the Year candidate just as the Mavs were under the gun early to the Clippers, trailing by 14 points with 9:54 left in the first half.
Terry saw no need to apologize on Saturday.
"I don't think it became public at all," Terry said. "Again, Coach made a decision, we all rolled with it, you seen me on the bench, I'm cheering on my guys to win the game whatever happens. I don't think it was public at all. ... Again, it happened, it's over with and we're moving forward."
The Mavs found a spark after the incident and went on to a much-needed victory that broke a four-game slump. Afterward, the team did its best to keep the matter under wraps even though it unfolded in front of a crowd of more than 20,000.
"It's an internal matter. It's going to remain an internal matter," Carlisle said as he began his postgame conference. "This is an emotional game and it's a very compelling game because in our league guys don't wear baseball hats and fans aren't seated 30 yards from the field and guys aren't wearing facemasks with glass barriers like hockey. Emotions run high and sometimes things happen, and I'm going to leave it at that. Jet's a very important guy on our team. I was considering giving him a night off going forward, but I think tonight will be his night off."
The trigger point appeared to come after Terry committed a turnover and Clippers guard Eric Gordon blew through for a layup and a 39-25 lead. Terry then inbounded the ball by rolling it to Barea, who gave Terry a sideways look. Carlisle called a timeout and when the players got to the bench, Terry began barking in Barea's face as assistant coaches and players got between the two.
In the postgame locker room, Terry answered questions on a live television interview about the game only and then left, refusing to talk about the incident. Barea, who finished with 15 points and five assists, said it was just "part of the game" and "nothing big happened."
"I don't really know what happened," Barea said. "I know what happened with me, but I don't know what happened with [Terry]. It's part of the game. It's happened to me before; heat of the moment, nothing big."
"It's playoff time," Terry said Saturday. "Emotions are going to be high at this time of the season. The last couple of years we've kind of been real lax and kind of went through the motions. But, this year is totally different. As you can see these games are intense. Positively or negatively, something's going to spark off and happen.
"And, last night I let it become negative and so going forward it's just not going to be that. It's going to be all positive, but we're going to channel our energies in the right direction. But, as you know, again, these times now are very intense and it's going to be like that for the next two or three months."
Terry was scoreless in just under eight minutes of action prior to the incident. He was late arriving to the bench for the start of the third quarter and did not play again. Carlisle said Friday he did not expect further disciplinary action. The coach was then asked if he had talked to Terry and resolved the matter.
"It's an internal matter," Carlisle said. "If we haven't, we will. If we have, we did. And I think that's fair."
For Terry, it's been a difficult nine days. He attended the funeral of an aunt he was especially close to during the team's recent six-game road trip, was hit with a flagrant foul for shoving Steve Blake during the March 31 blowout loss at the Los Angeles Lakers and drew a technical foul late in Wednesday's loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Meanwhile, Terry has also struggled through a shooting slump.
Whether the incident lights a fire under the limping Mavs or is a sign of further unraveling will be closely watched in the final three regular-season games and as the first round of the playoffs are set to begin next weekend.
"It's all piling up a little bit," forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "Maybe this was the game we needed to kind of get some stuff out and refocus, play with each other and fight with each other. That's what it's going to take in the playoffs."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.