Dirk Nowitzki: I was just stating fact
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki did not intend to call out his longest-tenured teammate when he said Monday that Jason Terry has not been the "crunch-time, clutch player" the Dallas Mavericks need during the NBA Finals.
Nowitzki simply gave an honest answer about the late-game impact of Miami Heat superstar LeBron James, who hasn't scored much in fourth quarters of these Finals but has shut down Terry down the stretch of both of Dallas' losses. It wasn't a motivational ploy by the Mavericks' MVP.
"We all know Jet. He's a confident young man," Nowitzki told ESPNDallas.com before Tuesday's shootaround. "He knows we need him to close games out in the fourth.
"I'm not really worried about it. I didn't call him out. I was just stating a fact. He knows he had zero points in [the fourth quarters of] Game 1 and Game 3. He knows that's not going to cut it."
Terry, whom Nowitzki often refers to as one of the best closers in basketball, had an eight-point flurry to spark the Mavs' Game 2 comeback from a 15-point deficit with seven minutes remaining. But Terry has missed all seven of his shots in the fourth quarter of the Mavs' two losses in this series, including a 3-pointer that would have given Dallas the lead in the final minute of Game 3.
Terry's response to Nowitzki's clutch comment: "Truth, truth, it's all truth."
Terry said immediately after Game 3 that Nowitzki, who scored 15 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3, needed a lot more help. Terry added that he put a lot of that on his shoulders.
Terry annually ranks among the league's leading fourth-quarter scorers, but that hasn't been the case during the playoffs. He has averaged only 3.2 points on 17-of-58 shooting (29.3 percent) in fourth quarters this postseason. Nowitzki, on the other hand, is averaging an NBA-best 10.0 fourth-quarter points per game this postseason.
A few days ago, Nowitzki described his partnership with Terry as a "love-hate relationship" because they are brutally honest with each other, often at high decibels. Terry compared it to brothers who argue a lot but always have each other's back.
Nowitzki doesn't think he needed to say anything to get Terry's attention, but the Mavs' sixth man admits that his teammate's comments could provide additional motivation fodder.
"Usually when he says it, it works," Terry said. "We'll see what happens (Tuesday night). When the big man gets on you, you've got to respond."
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.