Jason Terry lays claim to 6th man honor

DALLAS -- This season is not about individual accolades for the Dallas Mavericks, the playoff-hardened but ringless veterans keep telling us.

Well, except for Jason Terry.

Don’t get it wrong. His ultimate goal is to participate in a championship parade, something Terry was so close to experiencing five years ago.

However, Jet readily admits that he’s also fueled by his quest to reclaim the honor that he has considered rightfully his since he accepted a reserve role a couple of seasons ago. And he’s staking his claim to the Sixth Man of the Year award one big shot at a time.

“That means a lot to me,” Terry said after coming up clutch again in the Mavs’ 116-108 win Friday night over the Pacers. “It’s something I put out in all my summer workouts. It’s something I’ve been focused on ever since I won it my first year [as a reserve]. Last year, I finished second and that wasn’t good enough for me. It’s still on my mind.”

Nothing against Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford -- last season’s Sixth Man of the Year and Terry’s primary challenger this year -- but this ought to be a lopsided vote.

Terry leads all reserves with 16.3 points per game -- 1.3 more than Crawford -- for a team that has the third-best record in the NBA.

But it’s not Terry’s point total that gives him a pretty firm grasp on the trophy with a quarter of the season to go. It’s his tendency to fill it up in the final quarter of games, especially when the outcome is in jeopardy.

“He’s coming off the bench every night and giving us big baskets in the fourth quarter,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “He’s one of our closers. I can’t see anybody else taking that.”

According to 82games.com, Terry entered Friday night averaging 41.4 points per 48 clutch minutes, which the website classifies as those with less than five minutes remaining and neither team leading by more than five points. That’s the continuation of a career-long trend for Terry, who combines with Nowitzki to form the league’s highest-scoring clutch duo this season.

And Terry bumped that average up a bit with his performance against the Pacers, who slashed the Mavs’ lead to three points with 3:23 remaining. Clutch time in this game lasted a total of two offensive possessions for the Mavs, both of which ended with Jet jumpers, the second a high-degree-of-difficulty pull-up baseline fadeaway over big man Ray Hibbert.

“Nut-cutting time,” said Terry, who finished with 21 points. “That’s the best time of the game for me.”

Perhaps he’ll polish that up a bit for his acceptance speech when he’s presented the Sixth Man trophy for the second time in three seasons.