DALLAS – For years, Jason Terry served as Dirk Nowitzki’s clutch scoring sidekick, forming a pick-and-pop duo that paved the way for the Dallas Mavericks to make two trips to the NBA Finals and win one championship.
The business of basketball led to Terry’s breakup with the Mavs in the summer of 2012. The search for his successor has ended.
Their styles are significantly different, but count Terry among those who are wildly entertained and encouraged by what he’s seen from Monta Ellis.
“Obviously, I’m a depth shooter, which means I can shoot the ball with range, so the defense is going to have different coverages when I’m in it than for Monta,” Terry said during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “Hoffman and Locker” Saturday. “Monta has the best ability in the league, to me, to straight-line drive and get to the basket. With him, they will go under the coverage and try to meet him at a spot. Now, you can say you want to meet him at a spot, but as you know and San Antonio knows, in this series they have not been able to do it consistently.
“He’s been able to finish at the basket, and when he’s not finishing at the basket, he can stop on a dime and knock down the jump shot.”
Terry had some playoff success against the Spurs, most notably his fresh-off-a-suspension 27-point performance in the Mavs’ 2006 Game 7 win, but Ellis’ style has presented more problems for San Antonio.
Terry, who is on the Sacramento Kings’ roster but returned to Dallas to rehab his knee after a midseason trade from the Brooklyn Nets, scored more than 20 points three times in 17 playoff meetings with the Spurs. Ellis has at least 20 points in five straight games this series, including a pair of 29-point performances in the Mavs’ last two wins.
One similarity between Terry and Ellis is the desire to have the ball in his hands during crunch time and the ability to deliver in those situations.
Nowitzki often called Terry “one of the great clutch shooters in our league,” a reputation Terry especially lived up to during the Mavs’ march to the 2011 title.
Ellis had 12 points in the final 6:35 of the Mavs’ Game 3 victory, scoring five buckets that all occurred when the score was within three points, the last two of which tied the game in the final 70 seconds. He had 12 points in the final five minutes in Friday’s Game 6 win, keying the Mavs’ elimination-avoiding comeback.
That’s the kind of killer instinct that Terry always prided himself in having.
“No question,” said Terry, who scored a team-high 31 points in the other Game 7 during his Dallas stint, a rout of the Rockets in the 2005 first round. “Since he stepped foot on the court in the league straight out of high school, he’s played with that fearlessness. Reckless abandon for his body. When he goes in, he can finish amongst big guys, three people at times. At other times, he’ll come down and pull up 1-on-3 on a fast break, a la Jet. That’s the one where the coach is going, ‘No, no, no, no, no! Ahhh, good shot!’
“I just think players that play that way, you have to have no conscience. You can’t worry about missing. Just when the game is on the line, whether you’re 0-for-10 or you’ve made your last 10, you still will take and make big shots. That’s what Monta Ellis has. That’s an intangible that a lot of players don’t have in this league.”
It’s also a critical quality for the job of Dirk’s clutch sidekick.