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Letting Jason Terry Soar

A few days ago I sat down to write a column titled “Why Hasn’t Jason Terry Worked Out With the Boston Celtics?” It was during Game 3, and only a few words were crafted into the opening sentence when Terry turned back the clock, temporarily lighting my idea on fire by knocking down three first half 3-pointers in a matter of seconds.

The column hasn’t died, but its narrative was altered and complicated after J.R. Smith purposefully elbowed Terry in the face. I wouldn’t say his response in Game 4 merits a “let sleeping dogs lie” bouquet, but Terry did hit a few humongous shots that extended Boston’s season another few days.

It’s the first time we saw Jason Terry playing like Jason Terry: Give him a screen, let him work in the mid-range. According to NBA.com/Stats, this season Terry shot 49.2% on jump shots between 16-24 feet, an elite number and an area of the floor where he’s always thrived. This was where he sliced up the Miami Heat during the 2011 NBA Finals, and where he established himself as a versatile offensive weapon off the bench for so many years. But for whatever reason, this isn’t where the Celtics have chose to get Terry his looks, in part because he’s now at the age where help is needed to get him open inside the three-point line.

In the first round Terry has attempted only two shots from the 16-24 feet. One of them came as the direct result of a high screen from Kevin Garnett. It was arguably his biggest shot in a Celtics uniform. Terry takes the high screen on the right side of the floor going left, and the Knicks respond by switching.

With Tyson Chandler isolated on him at the top of the arc, Terry changes direction and drives right, straight towards Garnett who’s somewhat caught by surprise in an attempt to post up Ray Felton. With the shot clock winding down, Terry’s look is clean and he sinks it, giving Boston a three-point cushion and effectively ending the game.

In a less stressful situation earlier in the series, here’s Terry once again taking a high screen from Garnett and going straight at Chandler, who’s playing a soft pick-and-roll coverage. He doesn’t have enough room to pull up at the three-point line, so Terry tries to blow by Chandler, eventually drawing a shooting foul.

In order to give their offense some variance and a little bit of punch, Terry should be placed in situations like this a whole lot more. He’s still an effective offensive player, and the entire reason Boston signed him to the full mid-level exception was to take advantage of his offensive abilities off the dribble, or at least that was the idea.

Boston has instead centered its entire offense around trying to place Paul Pierce near the foul line with a smaller defender on his back. The Knicks have done nothing to thwart this strategy because they welcome it.

Frankly, Pierce has looked completely over his head at times—turning it over, forcing step back jumpers that go in sometimes, but stifle the offense’s flow all the time—and the most logical way to loosen that load would be moving the ball around and letting others carry their weight. He’s shooting 42% from the floor (25% from behind the 3-point line on six attempts per game) and turning the ball over 5.5 times a game.

(Pierce’s usage percentage is at 31.2% through four games—up from 27.4% throughout the regular season—which doesn’t bode well for the Celtics’ offense given how he’s played, and how the Knicks are defending him.)

This season, including the playoffs, 14.7% of Terry’s offensive plays have been utilized as a pick-and-roll ball handler. Synergy Sports has him ranked as the 99th most efficient player in these situations, scoring 0.76 points per possessions and shooting 37.1% (39.1% on 23 attempts from behind the 3-point line). The Celtics have only so many ways to improve their offense with their season coming down to one final game, but putting the ball in Jason Terry’s hands and letting him create for himself might be the smartest option.

  • janos

    thank you very good articles i was finally enjoy see player JET as promise us, befor was not delivers but is going better now i am ready for game tomorrow night for sure i will not have go to the job so will watch game at on tv

  • Tony Knicks

    On behalf of myself I would like to apologize for my insensitive and vulgar comments regarding Jason Collins and his personal sexuality. I know that it was very wrong of me to tear him down, mostly because it took so much courage for him to come out. Please accept my apology and may the best team win tomorrow.

    • Josh_5

      Thank you Tony, I accept your apology.

  • Tony Knicks is LAME

    You could at least know how to spell TRIVIA, Tony. Homophobic prick.

  • Bob

    The only way you'd know Jason Collins is going to have sex tomorrow night is if you're planning to be there.

  • janos

    in few years time when you are the 18 year old guy;you are going look back this words and be a shame. i am a pity ofyou.

  • Morpheus

    This is old news. We as fans know Terry's strengths. Just imagine Terry on the Knicks, Woodson would know how to utilise him. JET and Chandler / Amare pick n roll would be devastating. Why can't Doc do the same though?

  • Josh_5

    I really wish we could see Terry handle a majority of the ball handling duty for game 5. As bad as he can be on D, Bradley let Pillsbury Felton light him up anyway. That being said, I will roll the dice with a vet who has a history of hitting clutch shots versus AB who cant throw a grape in the ocean right now.

  • GymRat

    Great post and thanks for putting those numbers together. I've watched nearly every game this season and it did occur to me every time we let Terry be Terry things went pretty well. 49.2% well. For those who don't know his game it can be scary to see him take a pull up jumper on the break instead of going in for a layup…but that IS his version of a layup so it was great to see him finally get those kinds of shots in the playoffs.

    He's been wasted so much by being forced to stand behind the 3-point line and act as a spot-up shooter (hate to see those numbers). I hope he gets the chance to play his style in game 5. We really need him.

    Go Jet!!

  • fabzzz

    Oh, so JR Smith is annoying: http://espn.go.com/new-york/nba/story/_/id/922821

    Hopefully Terry reads this and outplays Smith in Game 5.

  • skeeds

    AMEN! I've been fuming all season about this, glad I'm not the only one. Terry might be going through a huge, season spanning slump. That does not change the fact that he is one of the most capable pick and roll players I've seen in the NBA.
    I will never forgive Doc for the fact that he spent most of this season trying to shoehorn the Jet into Ray's set plays. When, in his long career, was ever Terry a corner 3 guy? When was he ever an off-ball shooter? All while he should be trusted to play to his style. Why on earth would the plays he ran with Dirk not work with KG?
    Doc tried to turn Terry into Ray, to salvage a system already in decay. It's not only unfair, but most of all counter productive. Oh, and it's not the only time he's done this. Remember the JO fiasco? Among all the stuff that happened, was Doc's attempt to turn JO into Perk's clone. All those interviews, about his "new role", his "new focus" for "the sake of the team". Bullshit. You can't simply take a 12 year veteran and ask him to be a different player. Even if he's more than willing to do so, (JO wasn't, Terry is) he probably can't.

  • yordgreat

    Knicks' Smith: Series over if I play Game 4

    • Josh_5

      Celtic's Rondo: Series over if I play Games 1-4

  • yordgreat

    GREENBURGH, N.Y. — J.R. Smith thinks the New York Knicks would have swept the Boston Celtics if he had been playing in Game 4 of the division rivals' playoff series.

    "Oh yeah, it would've been over," Smith said after Tuesday's practice. "I'd have been playing golf today."

    The NBA suspended Smith for Game 4 after the star guard threw an elbow at Jason Terry's chin late in Game 3.

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    Knicks Looking for more Knicks news? ESPNNewYork.com has you covered. Blog »

    Smith watched on television Sunday as the Celtics defeated the Knicks 97-90 in overtime to avoid elimination and extend the series. Smith also watched Terry score nine points in overtime.

    Asked about Terry on Tuesday, Smith said, "Who? I don't even know who that is."

    The Knicks' bench scored just seven points in the loss, a clear indication that they were hurt by Smith's absence. Carmelo Anthony shot just 10-for-35 and seemed to miss Smith, who draws attention from opposing defenders.

    "It was very tough to watch," Smith said. "Especially that first half. I mean, from the turnovers to missing shots. … It wasn't the easiest thing ever.

    "I wasn't pleased with it. My teammates wasn't either. I'll get the chance to make up for it tomorrow."

    The Knicks can close out Boston in Game 5 on Wednesday and win their first postseason series since 2000.

    "It's a must," Smith said of Game 5. "We're playing at our building. We're planning on not losing any games at our building, so I mean we've got to get this thing over as fast as we can so we can get (Jason Kidd) his rest, Melo his rest, and get prepared for the next series."

    Smith, the NBA's Sixth Man Award winner, would not offer his opinion on the one-game suspension.

    "I can't really say what my reaction was," he said. "It won't be good for me or my team."

    Smith said he learned a lesson from his suspension.

    "Yeah, don't throw elbows," he said.

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