Team-first Jason Terry comes up big again

DALLAS -- The last remaining members from the Dallas Mavericks' 2006 Finals team are Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.

Their run started together in 2004-05 when Terry replaced Steve Nash. Nash and the Phoenix Suns wound up beating the Mavs in six games in the West semifinals. You might remember the dagger 3-pointer Nash hit from the top of the arc as Terry sagged off of him.

You also might recall during that frustrating series that Nowitzki verbally lashed out at Terry and he went so far as to question the guard's basketball IQ. The two have since been through numerous battles, triumphs and disappointments, and both keep fighting. Perhaps more than ever, the two must carry the scoring load for a team trying to prove it is contender material.

They combined again for a magnificent finish Monday night, scoring the team's final 15 points to defeat the Boston Celtics, 89-87. It was an important home win against the defending East champs that snapped a two-game home skid and gave the Mavs (4-2) their first home win over the Celtics (6-2), and just their second overall, since The Big Three united three years ago.

The Mavs entered this one with a new look. Terry, who has bounced in and out of the starting lineup at coach Rick Carlisle's wish, had started all five games so far and averaged 19.2 points. But lack of scoring punch off the bench was troubling, and that situation came to a head in Saturday's loss to the Denver Nuggets.

So Monday night, Terry, consenting with Carlisle, was back on the bench. DeShawn Stevenson, who had played a total of two minutes in the first five games, got the starting nod and quickly buried two 3-pointers in the first quarter. Terry didn't enter until nearly nine minutes into the period. He started slowly but ended strong.

Terry scored 11 of his 17 points in the second half. He had six in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:13 to play that tied the game at 87-87. Forty-five seconds earlier the Celtics led 87-82, but a 7-0 run, capped by Nowitzki's 16-footer over Glen Davis with 17.4 left, iced the victory.

With 5:44 to go, Terry's driving floater ended a four-minute scoring drought and ignited the 15-7 finishing kick.

"He's been great accepting that role, embracing that role and really doing whatever we need him to do," Nowitzki said of Terry. "But he also knows -- starter, off the bench -- he knows the ball is coming to him. And he also knows he's going to be on the court down the stretch and he's going to get the ball in his hands and we need him to make big shots.

"His role, starting or not, is not going to change much. We want him to score. We need him to score and we need him to be aggressive. And he's one of the best clutch shooters I've ever seen in this league."

The Mavs moved to 4-2 on the season as they work through chemistry and other on-court issues. After leading 50-40 at halftime, Dallas struggled through an awful offensive third quarter, making just four field goals while seeing its lead evaporate.

The fourth wasn’t exactly textbook offense either, but defensively the Mavs stepped up and held Boston to 38.1 percent shooting in the final period.

Tyson Chandler played his best game as the Mavs’ starting center with 12 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. Shawn Marion made life tough on Paul Pierce late. Jason Kidd had two big assists on the final two baskets, including a laser kick-out to Terry for the game-tying 3.

But, it was Terry’s unselfishness again that might yet define this team. He continues to do whatever is asked when other players might balk.

“It’s something that’s tough, especially when you’ve had success," Terry said of transitioning back to the bench. "I had a good run here the first five games and then being thrust back off the bench is an adjustment. You change your routine up a little bit, but hey, for the betterment of this team I’m here to do it.”

After the Nuggets’ bench outscored the Mavs’ bench 40-19 on Saturday, Carlisle knew he had to make the change. Against Boston, Dallas’ bench scored 19 points by halftime, led by J.J. Barea’s nine points. In the end, the Mavs’ bench outscored the Celtics’ reserves, 35-21.

“As starters, we were good. We were getting off to a great start,” said Terry, who made 2-of-3 from behind the arc and added four assists. “And then we were lacking something, whether it was energy, whether it was scoring, or maybe both. But I was able to provide a spark. It looked like J.J. seemed a little more comfortable with me out there able to make plays with him. It’s something we’re going to continue to look at.”