By: Rich Levine
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.