Jason Terry erases bitterness, keeps ink

MIAMI -- The Larry O'Brien Trophy tattoo on the inside of Jason Terry's right arm, the one that launched so many big shots in these NBA Finals, can stay.

The motor-mouth sixth man helped make sure he didn't have to live up to his vow to get that tattoo removed if his Dallas Mavericks didn't earn the real trophy. For Terry, it's the memories of the Finals failure from five years ago that can finally fade away.

For five years, his mornings often began with thoughts of the 3-pointer he missed that could have sent that Game 6 to overtime. He frequently flashed back to the Miami Heat celebrating on his home floor when he stepped onto the American Airlines Center court.

Not anymore. Not after Terry sipped champagne in Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena after a spectacular shooting performance that keyed the 105-95 closeout win Sunday night over the Heat.

"It was not our motivating factor going in," Terry said of the awful '06 experience. "But now that we have done it, you can say it was sweet vindication."

Terry's stroke was pretty sweet, too.

Five years after a 7-of-25 performance in a Finals finale, Terry carried the Mavericks offensively in the ultimate elimination game, especially while Nowitzki waited for his jumper to arrive in Miami. Terry scored 19 of his game-high 27 points during the first half, allowing the Mavs to lead despite Dirk missing 11 of 12 shots from the floor before the break.

"Was he unbelievable tonight or what?" Nowitzki said.

Terry has been unbelievable pretty much since Nowitzki publicly pointed out that he needed Terry, the only other player remaining on the roster from the '06 Finals, to help him out during crunch time. This came after Terry failed to score in the fourth quarter of the Mavs' two losses in the first three games of these Finals.

Of course, Nowitzki didn't say anything that Terry didn't know. In fact, Terry had already accepted responsibility in headline-making fashion, boldly questioning whether Miami superstar LeBron James could defend him for an entire seven-game series.

Well, the man known as Jet backed up his bark, serving as a co-star in the Mavs' three consecutive wins to claim the franchise's first title.

It started when Terry attacked James in the fourth quarter of Game 4, snapping out of a shooting slump to fuel a comeback with eight points in the final frame. He followed that up with a 21-point performance on 8-of-12 shooting in Game 5, drilling the dagger in King James' face from way downtown. And Terry saved the best for last, scoring 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting to make the popping of champagne bottles Sunday night possible.

"It wasn't about carrying the team," said Terry, who matched San Antonio's Manu Ginobili for the most points scored off the bench in a title-clinching win. "It was doing my job. My job is to come in and provide a spark, make plays, make shots. I did my job."

It was the kind of series that should make Terry's dream of having his jersey hung from the American Airlines Center rafters once he retires a reality.

It was the kind of series that should shut up the legion of critics who questioned the clutch chops of Terry.

Those questions weren't without merit, by the way. Terry annually ranks among the NBA's leading fourth-quarter scorers, but his playoff performances had been progressively poorer in the past few years. To his credit, Terry didn't deny that, vowing before this miraculous Mavericks run to make up for his previous failure and following through on that promise.

"Jet had to take all that criticism," said owner Mark Cuban, who reminded that Terry dealt with the pressure of being the player the Mavs acquired to replace Steve Nash and the scapegoat of the playoff loss to Nash's Suns the next season. "The media was killing him: 'He can't perform in the playoffs. He's not clutch in the playoffs. He's too this, he's too that.'

"He shoved it up everybody's ass."

That's a harsh way of saying that Terry proved a lot of people wrong, but it's true. As an eternally positive person, Terry would probably prefer to say that he proved himself right.

He was right when he told us these weren't the "same ol' Mavs." He was right when he said this team was much more mentally tough than the recent Dallas squads. He was right when he said he'd perform under the postseason pressure. He was right when he said LeBron couldn't guard him for seven games -- and played a major part in only giving James a chance to answer that challenge for six games.

Most of all, Terry was right when he believed in this team so much to predict a championship during a preseason party at DeShawn Stevenson's Orlando home ... and put it in ink on his body. Now he plans to add Sunday's date under the tattoo.

The '06 Finals flop can now be considered a distant memory for the Mavs and Terry. ("Those demons have been officially destroyed," coach Rick Carlisle said.) Terry will wake up every morning for the rest of his life as a champion.

And, if he ever needs a reminder, all Terry has to do is look down at his right arm.

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.