By David Willis
---- — BOSTON — Jason Terry held back for as long as he could. But after sinking a layup with 20 seconds remaining in overtime, the final dagger in the New York Knicks last night, the fun-loving guard couldn’t help but break out his trademark “Jet” dance.
“It’s been in the hanger for a while so I had to let that out,” said a chuckling Terry of the celebration where he running down the court with his arms out like wings. “You have to be yourself and do what makes you happy.”
With the Celtics on the verge of elimination, allowing New York to erase a 19-point second-half deficit and force an extra session, the scuffling Terry took over.
The Jet erupted for Boston’s final nine points of overtime, keeping the C’s alive with a 97-90 victory over the Knicks to force a Game 5 of the Eastern Conference first round series.
“As long as there is time left on the clock, and the chance for another game, there’s time for me to do something special,” said Terry. “I had every intention of somehow making an impact on this game. Whether it was scoring, rebounding or passing I was going to give everything I had to keep this year alive.”
Terry finished the day with 18 points, trailing just Paul Pierce and Jeff Green for the team-high, on a snazzy 7 of 10 shooting after scoring just a combined 23 points and taking one massive shot to the jaw in the Celtics’ three losses to the Knicks.
“Jet is a proven big-time performer in the big situations,” said Pierce. “Down the stretch he really opened up the game. That’s the way he’s been his whole career. And he has to continue to be the x-factor if we are going to be successful. That 3-pointer he hit in transition was huge.”
With 1:32 left in overtime and the game tied 88-88, Terry took a pass from Green and, while leading the breakaway, pulled up and stuck a 3-pointer.
“I had missed a transition 3 earlier in the game and that was driving me nuts because that’s my shot,” he said. “Doc (Rivers) has been telling me all season to take my shot. I don’t know why they haven’t been falling lately. But I know where is something still left in this clip.”
That 3 started his run of three buckets and a pair of free throws to lock up the win.
“He is just a fighter,” said backcourt mate Avery Brady. “He wanted to win from the opening jump. Jason was smiling, getting the crowd into it. I love playing with him. He just brings the energy. He makes me want to go out there and play as hard as I can.”
Despite a trio of tough games and getting clocked by J.R. Smith in Game 3, Terry was all swagger heading into yesterday’s elimination game.
The Celtics’ sixth man was smiling from ear-to-ear when he checking in for the first time with 4:46 to go in the first, and 15 seconds later confidently knocked down a 17-footer.
Later in the period, when a large contingent of New York fans began chanting “MVP” for Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, Terry could be seen imploring Celtics fans to speak up and overwhelm the opposition.
“There were a lot of Knicks fans here,” he said. “It’s a closeout game and they are taking over our building. OUR building? That’s something that fueled me. That doesn’t happen.”
Was he also fueled by the hit he took from Smith, which resulted in a one-game suspension for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year?
“Well, it still hurts pretty bad,” he said, rubbing his jaw. “I guess as long as it hurts I’ll be thinking about it. But it doesn’t worry me too much.”
As his game came alive, he also saw an energy in his team last night that he had been waiting for.
“This is the first time we really came out with that fire in our eyes,” he said. “I don’t know why it took us so long to show this kind of fire. But maybe that is just what we have to overcome. The Knicks will want to finish us off (Wednesday in New York), because they don’t want to come back here.”
So he’s not ready for his summer plans yet?
“I’ll be coaching AAU,” he said. “But I don’t want to be there right now.”