A Daily Babble Production
It isn't often that James Jones finds himself responsible for keeping the Miami Heat in a game. But it was the veteran forward's odd run late in the first half that kept the Heat within striking distance of the Atlanta Hawks before host Miami faded away in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
With less than two and a half minutes to play in the second quarter, the Hawks led by 17 points, and the Heat showed little sign of offensive life with 27 points for the evening. At this point, Mario Chalmers hit James Jones on the left wing for an in-rhythm attempt at a three-pointer. It was a straight catch-and-shoot - no head-fake - which made Solomon Jones' dump-trucking of James Jones on the play all the more inexplicable. Count the trey plus a foul.
On the Hawks' ensuing inbounds attempt, Mike Bibby attempted to go through rather than around Mario Chalmers. This is not allowed. Offensive foul. Heat ball under the basket.
On the following Heat possession, Jermaine O'Neal took the ball on the left block and kicked it to Jones as Mike Bibby tried to recover from losing his balance earlier in the play to get out at the shooter. Standing in nearly the exact same spot as he had on the previous play, Jones up-faked and let Bibby bounce off him before coolly draining another three. And receiving another whistle. Four-point play.
In a span of 11 seconds, Jones scored eight points on just two field-goal attempts. With the two foul shots he hit prior to the eight-point sequence, Jones totaled 10 straight points in 41 seconds to turn a 44-25 blowout into a 44-35 contest. Playoffs included, James Jones scored at least 10 points in a game on seven previous occasions this year.
Jones was far from done. Making his fourth start of the playoffs - and fifth of the season - he also knocked down another three and a mid-range jumper as well as six other free throws before ceding the scoring load to Dwyane Wade and Jermaine O'Neal in the fourth quarter.
In his 40 appearances during an injury shortened-regular season, Jones shot a total of 31 free throws, never more than four in a single game. He went 8-for-9 last night. He didn't score more than 13 points in game all year either. He poured in 19 last night while tying season highs in field goals made (four) and three-pointers made (three), all the while missing just one shot from the field in 30 minutes.
Though the Heat dug a new hole they couldn't escape late in the third and early in the fourth quarter, Jones' run reinvigorated his teammates and the American Airlines Arena crowd. The Heat posted a 7-2 stretch on top of Jones' reign of dominance to cut the lead all the way down to four heading into recess. I truly believe that the second half turns out a whole lot differently if the immortal Dick Stockton doesn't jinx the process by proclaiming, "The Heat have for all intents and purposes come all the way back" once Miami had cut the lead to 46-40. Yeah, all the way back. Save for six points.
But even though the Heat never did come all the way back, the three-points-plus-another heroics of their small forward offered a chance for observers' eyes to pop out of their heads and turned a developing rout into a competitive playoff basketball game. That's worth my appreciation.