By A.Sherrod Blakely
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.
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."