Allen, Pierce come up short in Three-Point Contest

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Allen, Pierce come up short in Three-Point Contest

By: Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

LOS ANGELES Never in the history of the free world has a Three-Point Contest received as much hype as Saturday nights showdown between Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

Or at least thats how it felt in Boston.

And with pride, bragging rights and a little chunk of history on the line well, they both went home empty-handedand Miamis James Jones brought home the title.

But while neither Celtics great did enough for the win, and in turn, enough to go home satisfied, they each left their stamp on a Three-Point Contest that will be remembered for eternity throughout the annals of NBA history.

Sorry, I had Bill Walton write that last sentence. Lets just move on.

The contest kicked off with Allen setting the early tone. The NBAs new three-point king notched a dominating 20-spot in the first round, which was easily good for first place and a spot in the finals. Jones joined Allen in the championship round after posting a 16, and that left one more spot with only one player left to shoot.

The Captain and the Truth Paul Pierce.

At this point, Boobie Gibson and (shockingly) Kevin Durant had already eliminated themselves with scores of six and seven, respectively, and Golden States Dorrell Wright was sitting third with 11.

It would take a 12 to propel Pierce into the finals, and halfway through his round, it didnt look good. In fact, with timing winding down, Pierce only had eight and needed to hit his last three shots to avoid and early exit and massive embarrassment.

Paul Pierce? Timing running out? Need a shot to win?

You know what happened next.

9, 10 money ball 12. Pierce was in the finals, and celebrated with a Pants on the Ground-esque jig that earned him extra loathing from the mildly excited Staples Center crowd.

Man, I was trying to carry that momentum into the finals, but just came up short, Pierce said afterward. I had a really good rhythm. I think I got the jitterbugs out after the first round. I was happy just to make it to the finals. I just came up a little short."

Pierce went first in the finals (because he had the lowest score in the first round), and put up an 18. A pretty solid score. But Jones was next, and quickly knocked Pierce out of contention with an impressive 20.

With Pierce out of the picture, Ray was up, needing a 21 to emerge victorious and put the icing on his recently acquired three-point crown. He didnt.

He started off the final session cold, was actually eliminated before reaching the final rack and finished with 15.

"I wanted to win badly, said Allen, and I didn't need to talk about it. I just wanted to do it. So it just ... again, if I could find a gym tonight I'd go through it again, just to get that feeling out of my stomach."

And if losing didnt completely turn his stomach, Pierces post game trash talking certainly did the trick.

"When 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.

But dont worry. He was just kidding.

Nah, nah. I'm giving it to Ray, he continued. "He's the three-point king. This was my only opportunity to upstage him, and I failed."

On Saturday night, they both did.

But if this is the only time the Celtics lose to the Heat all season, no one (even, eventually, Allen) will care.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

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Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

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Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.