Yes, it's just a shooting contest. But the underdog James Jones gave the Miami Heat their first minor victory against the Boston Celtics so far this season with a solid showing in both rounds of the contest to take home the trophy over the heavily favored Ray Allen and defending champion Paul Pierce. After the emotional three regular season losses against their biggest rivals in the East, Heat fans will take it, provided Jones' shooting touch doesn't suddenly desert him in the second half of the season as it did two years ago for Daequan Cook, the last Heat player to be crowned the champ.
The Heat now move into a tie with the Chicago Bulls (Craig Hodges 3x winner) and Boston Celtics (Larry Bird 3x winner) with four trophies as well as having the most players to win it, along with Glen Rice in 1995, Jason Kapono 2007 and Cook. Someone needs to tell TNT that fact because they completely forgot about Cook while recapping their past winners as they cut to commercial after the contest ended. Heat players have won 3 of the last 5 contests and every other year since 2007 (Kapono was the returning champion in 2008 as a member of the Toronto Raptors).
After being announced as one of the participants in the contest, Jones explained two weeks ago what his strategy would be.
"For me, it's just taking it one shot at a time, but you're not trying to rush through them because the shot that you rush and miss isn't worth anything. You're better off just taking your time and making every one that you shoot."
Jones surprisingly started a bit wobbly with his corner shots, the place where he makes a living on the Heat for most of the season. What really boosted his scores was the money ball, which he scored 3 of 5 in the first round and the first 4 in a row in the second round. He hit 3 of 5 of his shots in the first four racks and four straight in the final corner rack. His 20 points tie for fourth highest ever in the final round with three other players, including Pierce last year. Before the contest, his odds of winning were 11/2 while Allen was a 2/1 favorite and Pierce was 3/1.
"Those shots that I was taking out there, they're reflective of how I play the game during the season, so it was an easy transition for me," said Jones, as reported by Fanhouse. "And I think playing and shooting against some of the best competition in the league kind of brought the best out of me."
After bouncing back from serious wrist surgery and subsequently reduced to a bit player in his two years in a Heat uniform, Jones this season has finally lived up to his original contract with the Heat which is ironic considering he was bought out of it this past summer to create the cap space to sign LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the same time. To the surprise of many he was re-signed to another contract, this time a veteran minimum deal. Although he remains a limited player, he stepped up and filled the void left by Mike Miller's hand injury and provided the Heat with what he does best. This victory probably means a lot more to him personally after all that he's been through for the team he grew up rooting for as a kid then beating two rivals from Boston but even he'd have to admit it that it was icing on the cake.