Terry cashes checks mouth writes


DALLAS — Through three games of the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat had generally shut down Jason Terry. But they could not shut him up. Few ever do.

Terry openly doubted whether LeBron James could keep up with him through the series, saying he would wear James out. “We’re going to see if he can do it for seven games,” Terry said.

He sniffed that the Miami defense, then controlling the series, was not as strong as the defense Dallas conquered in the first round. “Portland, by far, has the best D,” Terry claimed. He pledged again and again that the shots that had been clanging would begin to fall.

By the time he drove the Mavericks past the Heat on Thursday, he seemed ready to declare that James’ muscles were fake and that, with Dallas leading the NBA Finals 3-2, Mark Cuban needed to pack just one T-shirt for the trip to Miami.

“We all know Jet is a confident young man,” Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki said. “He always has a lot to say to us in the locker room. He’s always talking. He’s just an energetic guy. He loves to talk, and he loves to hear himself talk.”

Terry does not deny it. As the forerunner of the recent wave of Seattle-bred NBA talent, he comes from the Gary Payton school of on-court decorum.

“It’s something I grew up with, watching my idols like Gary Payton and guys like that,” Terry said. “Being from the inner city, it’s just a part of my game.”

It was not, however, part of the Mavericks’ style or an easy mix with Nowitzki. When Steve Nash, Nowitzki’s closest friend in the league, left Dallas for Phoenix, the Mavericks signed Terry to provide a needed jolt of backcourt scoring. He was never expected to coolly run the offense as Nash had, but through their first season together, Nowitzki struggled with the change in style.

“We have a kind of love/hate relationship,” Nowitzki said. “We ride each other a lot. We talk to each other a lot. We argue a lot, even during games, but it’s all because we want to win.”

At times they come off like a weird German television version of Shrek and Donkey, with Nowitzki the put-upon, stoical hero bouncing between annoyed and amused as Terry runs his mouth.

Terry, however, has come as close as anyone to becoming the Mavericks’ second star, Nowitzki’s co-closer and a key to the series. After Dallas’ Game 3 loss, their second in the series and the second in which James shut down Terry in the fourth quarter, Nowitzki challenged Terry every bit as much as Terry had called out James.

“Jet hasn’t really been a crunch-time, clutch player for us the way we need him to,” Nowitzki said. “He’s a big reason why we’re here, because he’s one of the great fourth-quarter players we have in this league. But they’ve been able to really take that away.”

That changed in both games since, with Terry twice bolting past James in the closing minutes of Game 4 and shooting over him in Game 5. On Thursday, he added six assists, including an outstanding pass to set up Jason Kidd for a late 3-pointer.

“If you look at the whole playoffs, he’s been playing terrific all-around basketball,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “With a great player like .?.?. Dirk, a guy of that magnitude, everybody wants to try to find who the No. 2 scorer is. Jet is a great scorer, he’s a great shooter, and he’s a great player.”

More than anything, he thinks of himself as a player with too much confidence to be denied, especially by himself.

“Regardless of what’s going on throughout three quarters of the game, in the fourth quarter I know I’m depended on to come through,” Terry said. “It’s my job. All season long, ever since I’ve been a Maverick, I’ve been the guy in the fourth quarter they depended on to either make plays or make shots. I really relish in that role.”

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