Commentary

A happy Pierce, even without trophy

All-Star 3-point contest all fun and games for Celtics forward despite losing the crown

Updated: February 21, 2011, 1:35 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

LOS ANGELES -- After a week of woofing at teammate Ray Allen, Boston Celtics captain Paul Pierce held true to his promise and bested his Big 3 brother in Saturday's 3-point competition at the Staples Center.

Unfortunately for Pierce, Miami's James Jones crashed the party and gave the rival South Beach contingent their first bit of bragging rights this season.

[+] EnlargePaul Pierce
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesPaul Pierce powered back from a rough first-round performance in the 3-point contest, but came up short in the final round.

The "other guy" in a final round that featured the much-ballyhooed Boston duo, Jones quietly tallied 20 points to outgun both Pierce (18) and Allen (15) and bring the 3-point title back to Miami.

"I came close," said Pierce. "One shot away from pulling a tie off. But James was the better man today.

"I really didn't look at anybody as a sleeper out of all the contestants. If you look at [the competitors], from top to bottom, we had all great 3-point shooters. Anybody, on any given day, could have won. And today was James Jones' day."

Despite a rocky start, it sure looked like Pierce's day.

As defending champ, he shot last in the first round and limped around the arc, entering the final rack with only eight makes. He ultimately needed his final three shots to advance and, pausing ever so briefly, he calmly drilled all three, beating the buzzer with a money-ball trifecta that launched him ahead of Dorell Wright (11) as Kevin Garnett spilled off the sideline spewing obscenities as if Pierce made a game-winning jumper.

"I know KG's on the sideline, placing bets or something on who he thinks is gonna win," joked Pierce. "But it's fun. This is what All-Star Weekend is about.

"I knew how much time was on the clock. I think I rushed the beginning. That's what killed me. The first two racks every round killed me because I rushed them and then I took my time on the last three or four and really settled in. If I didn't rush, I probably would have put up a 25 or something [in the final round]."

Allen blistered the field in the opening round, topping the leaderboard after the first time through with 20 points of his own. He'd later admit he might have peaked too soon, and with a chance to win as the final competitor of the night, he couldn't find a rhythm, finishing with a mere 15 points on his final trek around the arc.

"I said earlier in the week, so much emphasis was placed on me and Paul," said Allen. "Once I knew James Jones, [Daniel] Gibson and Dorell Wright [were in this year's event], you can't just tip your hat to one guy here. You've got to shoot and you've got to shoot well in this period of time."

Allen and Pierce took solace in at least getting to the final round. Pierce would have never heard the end of it if he had not made it out of the first round, with a reporter joking after the competition that he avoided the "Dan and Dave" syndrome.

[+] EnlargeJames Jones
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesJames Jones was the silent killer of the 3-point contest, taking the win with 20 points in the final round.

Before the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Dan O'Brien and Dave Johnson were hyped as decathlon rivals, but O'Brien didn't even qualify for the Olympic team after electing to skip the lowest heights in the pole vault at the Olympic trials (and then failing at the higher heights).

O'Brien atoned with gold in 1996, and Pierce made sure to remind everyone that he will always be the 2010 champion. And, heck, for one night, he didn't mind a runner-up finish so long as he beat Allen.

"[If we] all went up to the podium, James Jones would have got gold, I would have got silver and Ray would have got bronze," Pierce said with a laugh before finally ending the trash talk.

"No, I'm giving it to Ray, he's the 3-point king. This was my only opportunity to upstage him and I failed."

Allen calmly endured all of Pierce's bravado this week and said he's simply going to hold Pierce to a higher standard in the second half of the season.

"We didn't even bet on it," said Allen. "Paul was doing all the woofing. So I need him to make shots now, moving forward."

For his part, Jones reveled in being the spoiler, playing the same sort of role he thrives in for the Heat. The third-year swingman is averaging 6.4 points per game while shooting 42.3 percent beyond the arc this season.

"For me, it's something I'm comfortable with," Jones said of his low-profile status. "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."

Despite the loss, Pierce wore a huge grin across his face throughout the postgame media session. And when asked if he was still one of the greatest shooters of all time, he dipped briefly back into his bag of brash.

"Still," said Pierce. "I've still got a trophy in this competition now and you can't take that away from me."

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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