And in the end, the sleeper walks away with the trophy. It was supposed to be Paul Pierce and Ray Allen’s show, but James Jones stole it, catching fire in the final round of the Foot Locker 3-point contest and taking the crown back to Miami.
Allen still has the title of all-time 3-point leader (plus the 2001 3-point contest title) and Pierce still has the one he won a year ago, but tonight Jones had the hot hand, drilling four money balls in the finals to knock off both Pierce and Allen and grabbing the spotlight if only for one night.
Playing on a team with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, James said he’s used to being overshadowed.
“For me, it’s something I’m comfortable with,” Jones said. “I prefer for other guys to get all of the attention and I prefer to sit in the corner silently and punish teams. It’s a very familiar territory. I’m not the superstar on my team but I know I’m an integral piece and guys like myself help teams win.”
Pierce, who played Don King setting up this 3-point showdown with Allen, nearly missed the finals. He eight of his first 10 shots, but knocked down his last three, including a money ball from the right corner to secure a spot in the last round.
Allen was already there waiting after putting up a 20 in the first round. He was grinning when Pierce’s last shot went down, knowing how anticlimactic it would have been to not have his teammate with him in the Finals.
But neither of them saw James Jones coming.
“I said earlier in the week, so much emphasis was placed on me and Paul,” Allen said. “When they announced who else was in it, I didn’t know who else was in it. Once I knew James Jones, Gibson and Dorell Wright, you can’t just tip your hat to anyone guy here. You’ve got to shoot and you’ve got to shoot well in this period of time.”
They both said they held off on making any wagers beyond bragging rights.
“We didn’t even bet on it,” Allen said. “Paul was doing all the woofing. So I need him to make shots now, moving forward.”
Welcome to the 3-point Contest, where the defending 3-point champion is drawing boos from the Staples Center crowd. He’s a fan of the big stage no matter the reception, so it’s fitting that Paul Pierce will go last up. Ray Allen, who took Pierce’s challenge and entered this year’s contest having already won it in 2001, will go third. Don’t sleep on the competition. Daniel Gibson, James Jones and Dorell Wright can get hot. And Kevin Durant’s obviously a gamer.
The top three scores from the first round advance. So now that all the trash-talking’s done, let the shots fall.
James Jones knocked down three money balls and finished with a 16.
Daniel Gibson missed his first nine shots and never found a rhythm, coming up with a 7.
Ray Allen drilled 10 straight and drained 3 money balls putting up a 20.
Kevin Durant made Gibson’s 7 look strong by going for 6 with one money ball.
Dorell Wright dropped 8 but in vain.
Paul Pierce provided the high drama. It wasn’t quite Larry Bird wagging the crooked finger in his third 3-point contest win, but Pierce got the 12 he needed by drilling his last three shots, including the money ball from the right corner.
Ray Allen, the pace setter, smiled. It would have been supremely anticlimactic if Pierce wasn’t there in the final round with him.
No rest for Pierce, coming right back out after his last-ditch effort in the first round. He found a better rhythm, drilling six straight at one point and three money balls finishing with an 18.
But James Jones caught fire. He abused the money balls, drilling four of five, and looked like he would knock down the entire last rack before clanging the last ABA ball.
Ray Allen didn’t have enough good shots left in him. He knocked down every shot on the straightaway rack but only two money balls. His 15 wasn’t enough, and Jones walks away with the trophy.