Posted Jun 10 2011 1:55AM
DALLAS -- Jason Terry tugged on the edges of his jersey and took a good, long look at that sea of screaming faces in the American Airlines Center crowd staring back at him and let it out.
"This is what I do," the Mavericks' sixth man said after draining a shot-clock beating 26-footer over LeBron James with 33.8 seconds to play, icing the game for the Mavericks and choking whatever life was left in the Miami Heat in Game 5 of The Finals.
Terry's shot was the fitting end to a roller coaster ride that included two dramatic shifts in the final 12 minutes of a game, and really a series that has seen dozens of emotional shifts for both sides over the past 10 days.
The Mavericks head to Miami for Sunday's Game 6 with a 3-2 lead and a chance to do the unthinkable for a team picked by many, including some of their own around these parts, to get eliminated at every turn before now. Yet here Terry and Dirk Nowitzki stand, a win away from erasing the nasty memories from their collapse five years ago against the Heat in The 2006 Finals.
"It's my job," said Terry, who scored eight of his 21 points in a game-clinching 17-4 run the Mavericks used to finish off the Heat 112-103. "All season long, ever since I've been a Maverick, I've been the guy in the fourth quarter they rely on to either make plays or make shots. Regardless of what's going on throughout the three quarters of the game, in the fourth quarter I know I'm depended on to come through."
The sweet-shooting Mavericks team that demolished the competition in the Western Conference playoffs, the one that sank 49 of their 106 attempts from beyond the 3-point line against the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in a conference semifinals sweep, went missing throughout the first four games of this series facing the best defensive team in basketball.
But you knew they would find the mark sooner or later. Terry, J.J. Barea and Jason Kidd picked the perfect time to resurface. They toasted the Heat's vaunted defense and toasted the fans in the final home game of a magical season that stands four quarters from the first NBA championship in franchise history.
Terry said in the minutes after the Mavericks' Game 1 loss, that if they kept getting the looks they wanted they would find a way to solve the Heat defense. He even baited James with a little trash talk after being held scoreless in the fourth quarters of the two games the Mavericks lost, daring James to stop him over the remainder of a seven-game series. He talked more than Nowitzki prefers, but even he had to smile a little after watching the man who fancies himself "Mr. 4th Quarter" finish off the Heat the way he did on this night.
"We all know Jet is a confident young man," Nowitzki joked. "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 backed it up this time, though. James got the triple-double but Terry and the Mavericks walked away with the win.
"Jet was phenomenal," Nowitzki said. "He was aggressive again from the get-go, I felt. Even in the first half he came in, had a couple of pull-ups, got in the lane, got a floater, I remember. That's the Jet we need. We need him to attack and get in the lane. It opens up a lot of stuff out there."
James spoke earlier in the day about Game 5 being the "biggest of his life" piggy-backing on his middle of the night Tweet suggesting that it was "Now or Never" for the himself and the Heat, who played shorthanded at times Thursday night after Dwyane Wade bruised his hip before halftime and logged just 16 minutes the rest of the way.
Someone forgot to relay that "Now or Never" memo to Terry, Kidd and Barea. They combined for 10 of the Mavericks' 13 makes from beyond the 3-point line, the next one seemingly more crucial than the last.
The Mavericks shot 68.4 percent from deep and used two monster 3-pointers from Terry and one from Kidd, on a sweet feed from Terry after he blew past James and drove to the basket, in the final three minutes to bounce back from a four-point hole and steal back a game they controlled for much of the night.
Barea was magnificent early on, dictating tempo and attacking the heart of the Heat defensive with repeated forays into the trees.
"Barea's penetration was terrific," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He got going with his outside game and his inside game, which really helped us. Look, we threw in some difficult shots, but when you play as hard as we've been playing, the basketball gods tend to be kinder to you."
Terry finished 3-for-5 from long range, Barea with 4-for-5 from deep with 17 points and five assists and Kidd 3-for-5 from deep with 13 points and six assists. It was the perfect second punch to pair with Nowitzki's 29-point effort.
"This team has more offensive firepower than any other team that we've played," said Heat power forward Chris Bosh. "They can't get wide-open shots. They can't get layups. They can't have guys [other] than Dirk having a good game."
But this is what the Mavericks do. It's how they reached this point in the season, with a wicked dose of Dirk and the Terry-Barea-led bench coming at teams incapable of defending an offensive dynamo that can beat you from distance or with Barea attacking off the dribble and wreaking havoc. They drained a playoff-record tying 20 shots from 3-point range (20-for-32) in a Game 4 blowout of the Lakers.
The Mavericks are 29-6 this season, regular season and playoffs combined, when shooting 50 percent or better from the floor, and they're 4-1 in the playoffs when doing so. The lone loss was in Game 3 in the first round against Portland. They shot 56 percent (39-for-69) Thursday night.
They are 22-5, regular season and playoffs combined, when they make 10 or more 3-pointers, and are also 4-1 in the playoffs when doing so. The lone loss again was that Game 3 in Portland in the first round.
And they are 24-4 this season, regular season and playoffs combined, when Terry scores 20 or more points, 7-1 in the playoffs. He scored 29 points in that Game 3 loss in Portland.
Game 6 of The Finals in Miami will offer much more pressure than anything they've seen to this point. But counting them out at this point would be as foolish as anything the Heat have done to this point.
Especially with Terry tugging on that jersey and channeling his trash-talking idols from his days growing up in Seattle and the Mavericks that showed up in Game 5 back on track ... it's what they do.
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