Thanks to James Jones’ smooth shooting stroke, the Miami Heat finally beat the Boston Celtics at something this season.
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The Heat’s outside specialist held off Boston teammates Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to win his first 3-point shootout at All-Star Saturday, scoring 20 points in the final round
Jones, an eight-year veteran who rarely shoots inside the 3-point line, made five straight shots late in the final round with his consistent, ground-bound style. Just a supporting player on the star-laden Heat, Jones said he benefited from shooting first in the three-man final, relieving any pressure.
Although Pierce was the defending champion and Allen recently became the NBA’s career leader in 3-pointers, neither could match Jones’ score in front of booing Lakers fans.
”Those guys were cheering for me, rooting for me,” said Jones, whose new-look Heat have lost three straight this season to the Celtics. ”We know we’ve had our struggles against the Celtics in the past, but today the Heat came out on top, so I’m excited about that.”
Earlier, Golden State’s Stephen Curry beat Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook to win the Skills Challenge, and a three-person team from Atlanta won the Shooting Stars competition in the first event at the NBA All-Star weekend’s silly Saturday.
Jones is the fourth Heat player to win the 3-point shootout title, joining Glen Rice (1995), Jason Kapono (2007) and Daequan Cook (2009).
Although Jones is only tied for 15th in 3-pointers this season, the journeyman’s outside acumen is respected around the league. Jones has taken 259 shots for Miami this season – and 220 of them were 3-point attempts, making 42.3 percent.
”Those shots that I was taking out there, they’re very reflective of how I play the game during the season,” Jones said. ”So it was an easy transition for me. I think playing and shooting against some of the best competition in the league brought out the best in me.”
Yet few expected him to beat Pierce and Allen, two of the most accomplished active outside shooters in league history.
Pierce won the event last season in Dallas, and he appeared confident even in the face of boos from fans who can’t forgive the Los Angeles native’s Celtics green.
Allen won the event in 2001, and he surpassed Reggie Miller’s career record with his 2,561st 3-pointer on Feb. 10 for the Celtics.
Allen led after the first round with 20 points from his sublimely fluid jumper, but Jones was right behind him with 16 points from his more workmanlike approach. Pierce pushed past Golden State’s Dorell Wright with his last money ball to reach the finals with 12 points.
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, last season’s NBA scoring champion and the current scoring leader, was left wearing a sheepish grin after finishing dead last in the first round with just six points, making only 5 of 25 shots.
Jones hit four of the five money balls worth two points in his final round, making 16 of 25 shots overall. Pierce scored 18 points, but missed his final money ball, which could have tied it – and Allen was out before he even reached the final rack in a 15-point performance.
The program was expected to be highlighted by Clippers rookie Blake Griffin’s much-anticipated appearance in the slam dunk contest.
Curry also played in the Rookie Challenge on Friday night. The Warriors’ slick guard twice navigated the basketball obstacle course with ease, beating a field also including Los Angeles-area native Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Rookie Challenge MVP John Wall and New Orleans’ Chris Paul, who missed a layup.
The star-studded crowd at Staples Center filled in well before the main event, expected to be a showcase for the rising hometown superstar. Griffin was the heavy favorite to win his first dunk contest.
Griffin is in the midst of the busiest All-Star weekend in the NBA’s recent history. He scored 14 points in the Rookie Challenge, and he stayed in the dunk contest even after getting chosen for the West squad in Sunday’s main event.
Griffin is the first rookie All-Star since Yao Ming in 2003 after an impressive debut with the Clippers. The forward from Oklahoma is averaging 22.8 points and 12.6 rebounds, but is best known for his astonishing dunking skills, with the hops of a guard combined with a center’s raw strength.