James Jones lights up Celtics for 25 points

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James Jones lights up Celtics for 25 points

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI When All-Star weekend rolled around in February, Miami Heat forward James Jones was an under-the-radar talent when it came to shooting 3s.

Before the weekend was over, he was crowned the league's 3-point shooting champion.

Fast forward two months to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

Once again Jones was a relatively unknown in the star-studded battle between Boston and Miami, only to shine as bright as anyone in the building before the night was over.

The 6-foot-8 forward had a playoff career-high 25 points was indeed a difference-maker in Miami's 99-90 Game 1 win.

"He single-handedly won the game," said Boston's Rajon Rondo who was plagued by foul trouble most of the first half. "Every time we made a run, he either got fouled and made his free throws or he made his shots."

On Friday, Jones spoke with CSNNE.com about the importance of his role in helping the Heat emerge victorious against a Celtics team that has had Miami's number in recent years.

James, who averaged just 3.8 points against the C's during the regular season, understands that much of the attention when it comes to the Heat will be paid to Miami's Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

But for one night, Jones was their equal -- at least he was in the eyes of Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

"Their Big Three today was James Jones, LeBron, and Wade," Rivers said.

Boston's Glen Davis echoed similar sentiments about Jones.

"He hit big shots when they counted," Davis said. "We left him wide open. He doesn't hit 25 points, we win."

Because so much of the focus by teams is on the Heat Big Three, their teammates have to accept certain roles in order to be successful.

Jones' role?

Designated shooter, of course.

"Coach Erik Spoelstra told me that my job is to make shots," Jones told CSNNE.com. "That's the best way I can help this team. Other guys on this team do everything else; they slash, drive, we have guys that post up. There's no need for me to try and replicate or compete with those guys. That's their role. That's what it'll take for us to win; for guys to humble themselves and accept what some might call a limited role. I like to phrase it as a more focused role."

Whatever Jones calls it, it certainly was working for him in Game 1, a game that Jones acknowledges was important to win in order to keep the series' momentum from immediately shifting in the Celtics' favor.

"Those guys are the champions and you don't want to give them momentum to start a series," Jones told reporters following Sunday's win. "You have to defend your home court because because they are going to come out with a championship effort. It was a good victory for us, but there is a lot of room for improvement."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Crowder on Cousins' style: 'Step up to the test or you get run over'

Crowder on Cousins' style: 'Step up to the test or you get run over'

BOSTON – There was a point in the fourth quarter when Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins was fouled trying to score which brought about an automatic, intense and angry scowl from the all-star center. 

He raised his hand as he were going to strike back at the potential assailant. 

And then he saw the man was Jae Crowder. 

Cousins, who had a game-high 28 points, then went to the free throw line, incident-free. 

“I’m not one those other cats he be punking,” said Crowder with a grin.

That moment was one of many throughout Friday night’s game when Crowder made his presence felt when the game mattered most, and wasn’t afraid to mix it up with whoever stood between him and helping the Celtics win – even Cousins. 

But as Crowder explained following Boston’s 97-92 win, that moment was about two physical players who have developed an on-the-floor rapport that speaks to their intensity and desire to win at all costs. 

“He’s going to bring the game to you; his physicality,” said Crowder who had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. “He’s a very physical type of guy. If he senses you’re not physical at all, he’ll let you know. He’s a dog down there; he’s a bull. I love to go against a player like that. He’s going to give you his best shot each and every night. You either step up to the test or you get run over.” 

As soon as the two made eye contact, Crowder knew it was one of the many intimidation methods used by Cousins against opposing players. 

Crowder wasn’t having it. 

“That’s my guy; he’s my guy,” Crowder said of Cousins. “He plays a lot of tactics against a lot of other players. I’ve earned that respect with him. He knows I’m going to fight him just as hard as anybody else. We leave it on the court. He’s a good friend of mine. We’ve become friends, just playing ball, playing basketball the right way.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

BOSTON – When the fourth quarter rolled around on Friday night, the Boston Celtics found themselves in a down-to-the-wire fight with the Sacramento Kings. 

It was the kind of game that in the past has brought out the scrappy, get-it-done-somehow brand of basketball that has in many ways come to define the Celtics under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens. 

And it was on full display Friday night as the Celtics made all the big plays at both ends of the floor down the stretch to beat the Sacramento Kings, 97-92. 

After Sacramento cut Boston’s lead to 90-87, Al Horford drained a 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game again. 

Isaiah Thomas came up with a pair of free throws that turned out to be huge, because shortly after he made them the Kings got a 3-pointer from DeMarcus Cousins that made it a 95-92 game.

The Kings had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth when Horford was credited with his sixth block of the game, this time on DeMarcus Cousins.

Horford was immediately fouled and went to the free throw line where he sealed the victory by making a pair.

Those were the kind of plays we saw often last season being made by the Celtics who finished in a tie for the third-best record in the East. 

This year, not so much. 

“For the most part we got what we wanted (in the fourth quarter) and we got the stops we needed even,” Thomas said. 

Which is the kind of game Jae Crowder and the rest of the guys who have been here awhile, have grown accustomed to.

“We got back to being the aggressive team,” Crowder said. “We came out and imposed our will early; that helped. But if the game comes down to what it was tonight, we have to be the team that comes out on top. It was like a playoff game, real physical. We have to grit it out, grind it out.”

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

 

STARS

Al Horford

So this is what an ultra-aggressive Al Horford looks like? The four-time All-Star had a season-high 26 points which included knocking down four three-pointers to go with eight rebounds and six blocked shots – yes, six blocked shots.

DeMarcus Cousins

While his fiery temper hasn’t died down completely, his incredible offensive skills and brute strength is what folks are talking more about, finally. He led the Kings with a game-high 28 points to go with nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and four blocked shots.  

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas

His streak of being Boston’s outright scoring leader ended at 14 games, but he’s more than happy to take a back seat for one night if it means getting a victory. Horford led the charge on Friday night, but Thomas still chipped in with 20 points, seven assists and two steals. 

Matt Barnes

Although he missed eight of his 11 shots from the field, the 36-year-old Barnes was rewarded for his hustle and effort as he finished with a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

Jae Crowder

Boston needed tough plays to be made on Friday and Crowder was up the challenge all night. He finished with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting to go with three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Good things happened when he was on the floor, evident by his game-high plus/minus of +15.

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

He finished with 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting but the Kings needed more from their second-leading scorer who finished almost seven points below his 19.6 points per game average. That stands out on a night when the Kings lost by just five points.