There’s no doubt it was a rocky road for Jason Terry at times in his first couple months with the Boston Celtics. After spending eight years of his career in Dallas, Terry was thrust into an offensive scheme that didn’t match up that well with his skillset in Beantown. Doc Rivers openly admitted last month that the coaching staff hadn’t put Terry in the best spots to succeed and use the shot creation skills that helped him excel so much with the Mavericks.
Those facts, combined with a knee injury that Danny Ainge said on a CSN broadcast in February had been giving Terry trouble, led to some very ugly numbers in December and January for the 35-year-old guard. The numbers were alarming enough (41 percent FG, 30 percent 3ptFG in January) it led some to wonder whether the team had made a mistake throwing it’s full mid-level at the aging Terry.
Luckily, like this Celtics season, Terry broke out of his slump in February. Benefitting from the C’s new spread offense that was implemented fully once Rajon Rondo went down, the JET has soared over the past couple months, posting 10.8 points per game on 46 percent shooting, including a scorching 41 percent from downtown in 26 minutes a game. It appears, finally, he’s comfortable on the floor in Boston, doing the same things that made him so dangerous in Dallas for so many years.
Despite all of the recent success however, there remains a lingering problem for the shooting guard: the Jet is not performing well when it leaves the friendly confines of Boston
Before I dig any further here, first a disclaimer. Nearly every player, and particularly bench role players play better at home than on the road. That’s not a surprise at all. The reasons for this vary, but the end result remains the same. It’s not a universal truth for every NBA player but it’s the reason guys like Leon Powe can score 25 points in a Finals home game, then just a couple in LA two nights later.
With that said, home/road splits are generally only worth a boost of a couple percentage points in the averages of most players. Playing at home helps guys, but doesn’t turn them into different players entirely, since most players have been dealing with hostile enviornments their whole career and are talented enough to still remain effective contributors on the road.
One guy you would think would excel on the road, would be Terry, especially given his demeanor. He’s seen it all in his career, is playoff tested, and won’t back down against anyone. Sounds like the perfect guy to have for tough road games, right?
Most of his career, the answer was yes. Terry’s home and road splits were quite marginal for a player with such high usage. Here are his career numbers with his home numbers in the top row:
Certainly, nothing surprising going on here, as most NBA players have these kind of splits. Unfortunately for Terry, these aren’t close to the kind of splits he’s experienced this season in Boston. Here’s a look at those numbers, again with his home splits coming in the top half:
Those are two different players, folks. One is an unstoppable sixth man at the TD Garden and the other is a low efficiency road shooter that Doc Rivers probably shouldn’t have on the floor at the end of games.
Now, I know what you might be thinking here. Small sample size! Bad luck! Jason’s been better in the past two months, so these numbers are skewed! Believe me, I was looking out for the same warning signs. Unfortunately, the closer I perused at the numbers, the worse things looked. Let’s explore a couple of these arguments though.
Theory 1: Terry had a bad first couple months, so these numbers are skewed. He’s probably been better lately on the road, right?
False. Despite playing terrific in February and March overall, JT’s still having the same road issues the past two months. Here’s his road numbers over that two month stretch.
39.2 FG%, 33% 3pt, 7.9 ppg in 12 games.
Those are a little better than his season road numbers, but those are still putrid figures for anyone on the road, much less the guy that is supposed to be one of your top offensive weapons.
Theory #2: So Terry’s been bad on the road for one season. It’s just bad luck! Look at his career numbers, it probably doesn’t mean anything.
The “this year is an aberration” theory. I was hoping this one might be right too. As I noted above, Terry’s had a strong track record in his career. One bad year on the road doesn’t ruin that, right? I’d say yes. The problem is, it’s been more than one bad year away from home. Check out his splits from last season in Dallas. I’ll let you guess which one is his home splits.
So while one year may be a flash in the pan, having it happen in back-to-back years, well that’s a pattern and it’s hard to dismiss that.
SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
That’s the bigger question. Despite all of these numbers, Terry’s obviously still very capable of playing well on the road. He’s delivered several games with double-digit points away from the Garden and hits big shots when this team needs it. However, Rivers has to take into account that’s he is much more prone to some serious dud performances away from the TD Garden, like the one he had against the Hornets Wednesday night (0-for-5 shooting, 0 points).
Doc appears to be coming to terms with this, choosing to go with Jordan Crawford (which I’m not sure is the right solution but we’ll save that discussion for another day) for most of crunch time Wednesday night.
Doc is not sticking with Terry on the road when he doesn’t appear to have it for the first three quarters and that’s a good thing. He’s not intent on continuing to throw him out there, just because he’s Jason Terry. JET needs to produce and if he does, Doc would love to go back to him in these games. He just needs to show he can hit shots away from home.
With it becoming an increasing likelihood that the Celtics will open up the playoffs on the road, performances away from the TD Garden will grow in importance. It’s something C’s fans should definitely keep an eye on.
For now though, with Terry returning to Dallas for the first time as a visitor in 11 years, Rivers can only hope that Terry feels right at home.
Statistical support provided by Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com/stats