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

2017 NBA title odds are out, Celtics rank second in the East

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2017 NBA title odds are out, Celtics rank second in the East

Teams are still fighting for the 2016 Larry O’Brien Trophy, but the 2017 NBA title opening odds have already been released by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. The Warriors unsurprisingly come in as heavy 3/2 favorites. The Cavaliers already punched their ticket for this year’s finals and are second, with 5/2 odds. Then there’s the Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers, as you’d expect rounding off the top five.

But then there’s the Celtics with 20/1 odds -- sixth-best in the NBA -- to raise Banner 18.

With eight draft picks and a chunk of cap space, the Celtics are in a position to capitalize on any opportunities that may come their way. There is a lot of uncertainty at this point in the NBA calendar, so Vegas must be hedging their bets on the Celtics making a leap towards contender status.

Celtics fans will also be happy to know the Nets have 500/1 odds to hoist the trophy next season, which ranks last of all teams. The Celtics have the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in the 2017 draft, which could give them another swing at a superstar prospect.

For full draft profiles of players the Celtics could draft this year, click here.

Team Opening odds
Golden State Warriors 3/2
Cleveland Cavaliers 5/2
San Antonio Spurs 6/1
Oklahoma City Thunder 8/1
Los Angeles Clippers 16/1
Boston Celtics 20/1
Toronto Raptors 25/1
Miami Heat 25/1
Chicago Bulls 40/1
Atlanta Hawks 40/1
Minnesota Timberwolves 60/1
New Orleans Pelicans 60/1
Houston Rockets 60/1
Portland Trail Blazers 60/1
Memphis Grizzlies 80/1
Utah Jazz 80/1
Charlotte Hornets 80/1
Washington Wizards 100/1
Indiana Pacers 100/1
Dallas Mavericks 100/1
Milwaukee Bucks 100/1
Detroit Pistons 100/1
Los Angeles Lakers 100/1
New York Knicks 100/1
Sacramento Kings 100/1
Philadelphia 76ers 100/1
Orlando Magic 100/1
Denver Nuggets 100/1
Phoenix Suns 300/1
Brooklyn Nets 500/1

Warriors force Game 7 with 108-101 win over Thunder

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Warriors force Game 7 with 108-101 win over Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Klay Thompson made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points, and the defending champion Golden State Warriors forced a seventh game in the Western Conference finals with a 108-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night.

Stephen Curry bounced back from a slow start to finish with 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

The Warriors, who set the league's regular-season record with 73 wins, will host Game 7 on Monday. The winner will play Cleveland in the NBA Finals.

Oklahoma City dominated Games 3 and 4 at home, but the Warriors made 21 of 44 3-pointers on Saturday, while Oklahoma City was 3 of 23.

Kevin Durant scored 29 points and Russell Westbrook added 28 for the Thunder. But Durant made just 10 of 31 shots and Westbrook was 10 of 27.

Trying to become the 10th team to overcome a 3-1 deficit, the Warriors trailed much of the game and trailed by eight going to the fourth quarter.

Thompson kept them in it with four 3-pointers in just over seven minutes to start the period. Curry then hit two 3s, the second of which tied the game at 99 with 2:47 to play.

Thompson's 3 with 1:35 to play put the Warriors up 104-101.

The Thunder, who blew a number of fourth-quarter leads during the regular season, fell apart in the final minutes after Golden State had finally gone ahead for good.

Westbrook lost control of the ball, and after Thompson missed a 3, Westbrook turned the ball over again. Curry's layup with 14.3 seconds to play put the Warriors up by five, the Thunder turned it over again, and the Warriors were in the clear.

The Thunder led 23-20 after one quarter, then seized momentum early in the second. Steven Adams' powerful one-handed dunk on Draymond Green drew a roar from the crowd and gave Oklahoma City a 37-28 lead. Green, who had hit Adams in the groin area twice during the series, was a constant target for the vocal Thunder fans.

Thompson opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Warriors a 54-53 edge, but the Thunder closed the quarter strong and led 83-75 heading into the fourth.