Miami’s Jones had plenty in reserve
Sharpshooter provided a spark
MIAMI — When the Heat needed to deflate the Celtics, it wasn’t any of their glamorous names who wielded the pin.
It was James Jones, with a career-playoff-high 25 points off Miami’s bench in yesterday’s 99-90 Game 1 win and a knack for sticking it to the Celtics whenever they were on of the verge of making the Heat’s lead disappear.
“He single-handedly won the game,’’ Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said. “Every time we made a run, he got fouled and made his free throws or he made his shots.’’
Jones didn’t score until the second quarter, but when he got the ball he was sharp and accurate. He scored all but 4 of the Heat’s bench points.
“They’re going to give up something and [yesterday] they gave up open looks to myself, and it probably won’t be the same thing every night, it won’t be a steady diet,’’ Jones said. “Someone else will have to step up and someone else will get those opportunities, but I’m confident that our guys will be able to come through and play well in those big moments.’’
This year’s champion of the All-Star 3-point contest was 4 for 5 from beyond the arc and 2 for 2 from the line in the second quarter. The Heat were up by 6 at the end of the first, but with the help of Jones’s hot hand they expanded that lead to 15 points by halftime.
In 28 minutes, Jones finished 5 for 7 from 3-point range — a stat that caused LeBron James to do a double-take when he glanced at the box score after the game — and 10 for 10 from the line, including three after Paul Pierce fouled him during a 3-point attempt in the fourth quarter. The Celtics’ reserves combined for 23 points.
“He’s been doing that all year long. Not the 25 points, but he’s one of our best team defenders, takes hits, he’s our best block-out guy, gets to the spacing,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “When he’s on the court, invariably lanes usually open up for LeBron and Dwyane [Wade] at some point because he’s very diligent, plays with energy, gets to the deep corners, and the ball found him.’’
Jones, in his seventh full NBA season and third with Miami, said the Heat don’t go into a game with a plan to target a specific bench player to take shots. It’s more about the reserves being opportunistic.
And for the Big Three of James, Wade, and Chris Bosh, having a player like Jones come through when one of them is having an off game is invaluable.
“We’re a team and we have a lot of talent and a lot of guys can score in different ways,’’ said Bosh, who had just 7 points (3 for 10) to Wade’s 38 and James’s 22. “I think it is encouraging for us because there’s no false sense of reality. With the Big Three, everybody didn’t have a good game offensively and I think that’s good for us. We’ve been trying to get better production off the bench and we got that today and we’re slowly getting better.’’
Jones also was in the middle one of the game’s testier moments when he and Pierce went nose-to-nose with eight minutes left and the Heat ahead by 12. They both were hit with technical fouls.
While Jones kept the Celtics’ defense honest with his outside shooting, he knows it probably won’t be a regular occurrence. It’ll have to be someone else or a collective effort from the bench players.
“We know it’ll be our shooters in general,’’ Jones said. “Will it be one guy; myself, Mike Bibby, Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller? We don’t know. But collectively we’ll have to do it over the series because they do a great job protecting the paint. That’s their defense.’’