Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Jason Terry’s Face Still Hurts From J.R. Smith’s Elbow, But His Game Doesn’t Suffer
BOSTON — Jason Terry says he can still feel the effects of the elbow J.R. Smith planted on his face Friday night in Game 3, but that didn’t stop Terry from being the Sixth Man Who Mattered Most on Sunday.
“It hurt, I mean it still hurts right now. Long as I feel that, I guess I’ll be thinking about it,” Terry said matter-of-factly in the corner of the Celtics locker room following their 97-90 OT win in Game 4 at TD Garden.
Terry won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2009, and Smith captured it this year.
But on a day when Smith was presumably back at the Ritz Carlton Boston Common wondering how things might have turned out had he not been suspended, Terry was actually making a difference on the floor.
Through the first three games, Smith averaged 16.3 points while Terry was getting just 7.7. But with no Smith to act as the Knicks’ option behind Carmelo Anthony’s 36 points and Raymond Felton’s 27, Terry came up big for The Green Team.
He scored nine of the Celtics’ 13 points in the extra period and was the reason Boston lived to fight another day.
“Well, you’re down 3-0,” said Terry, who scored 18 points off the bench. “If you want to go into the summer that angered me. Looking at that reality that it’s over, the season’s over. Everything you worked hard for is done, one game. So maybe it made us have a sense of urgency, which we’ve been lacking.’
Two days after Smith elbowed Terry, the Celtics found new energy and new life thanks to him.
“Maybe that elbow…changed the events for all of us,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
“Definitely Jason Terry was angry that it happened. He let his teammates know [Saturday] and [Sunday].”
Unlike Kobe Bryant, Smith didn’t live-Tweet the game, so we don’t know what his thoughts were. His timeline just showed that he attended the Red Sox game Saturday night.
The NBA waited until 9 p.m. Saturday night to announce his suspension, so Smith presumably went to the game without knowing his fate.
Regardless of J.R.’s night-time habits, this much is clear: the Knicks were clearly not the same team.
“J.R. is a big piece to what we do but hey, he wasn’t here tonight so I’m not using that as an excuse,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.
The Knicks trailed by as many as 20 in the third quarter before roaring back behind a 30-14 third quarter thanks to 16 points from Felton.
“Somebody’s gotta pick up the slack so I tried to be a little bit more aggressive in the second half,” Felton said.
“J.R. was definitely missed today. He’s averaging over 18 points a game. We definitely missed him offensively today for sure.”
Still, fueled by Anthony and Felton, the Knicks took their first lead at 84-82 on a Felton jumper with 1:18 remaining.
They actually had a couple of chances to win it, but Anthony couldn’t be the hero and missed several shots down the stretch en route to a 10-for-35 shooting performance.
“Honestly, as far as J.R. goes, we miss him, I missed him out there,” Anthony said.
“But J.R. being out there doesn’t change the way I shoot the basketball. I’ve been taking those shots all series, they just wasn’t falling tonight.”
In the OT, it was all Terry.
Asked how much Smith’s absence had on the game, Rivers said, “I don’t know. It probably had to have something to do with it. Felton was pretty good, though. He took the role of J.R. Smith and did a pretty good job of it. And [Iman] Shumpert made shots for them tonight as well
“You just don’t know what the impact was, but guarding one less guy can’t hurt.”
The good news for the Knicks is as follows: They go home where they are 33-10 this season. No team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a series. And they get their Sixth Man of the Year back for Game 5.
But Terry, the Sixth Man Who Mattered Most on this night, might still have something more to say when he faces Smith on Wednesday.
“He’s going to come out and obviously be tough, aggressive, looking to be the spark for them,” Terry said. “But we’re just resilient, and it’s going to be a great game. I can’t wait to go.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.