By Scott Howard-Cooper, for NBA.com
Posted Feb 14 2010 12:51AM
DALLAS -- Getting redemption the only place possible for the moment, Paul Pierce of the Celtics atoned for a bad showing his last time in the competition by winning the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest on Saturday at American Airlines Center.
It won't count as a response to a disappointing first half for the Celtics, who stand at No. 4 in the Eastern Conference amid injuries and losses in five of the 10 games before the All-Star break. But the moment clearly surpassed something more than an exhibition win for Pierce. He flashed a wide smile and bounded into the post-event press conference with loud boasts about erasing the memory of the last-place tie in the 2002 event in Philadelphia while making just eight shots in the opening round.
This time, Pierce nailed 14 the first try and, in the scoring system with a "money ball" worth double, 17 points. That was worth a tie for second with Chauncey Billups of the Nuggets, behind Stephen Curry of the Warriors. Danilo Gallinari of the Knicks, Channing Frye of the Suns and defending champion Daequan Cook of the Heat all had 15 points and were eliminated.
Pierce led off the final round and had 20 points, setting a strong pace. Billups went next and had 14. Curry took his turn and made four of five attempts off the first rack and three of five off the second while converting both money-ball opportunities. Curry was nearly half way to matching Pierce with 60 percent of his shots still to come.
But when he made only one from among the third set, straight-away from behind the 3-point arc, Curry fell off the necessary pace. Even with getting the money ball one more time and making three shots off the final baseline rack, he still finished with 17 points and in second place.
"I take pride in competition," Pierce said. "Like I said, back in '02, when I didn't do well in it and the way I've been practicing and shooting well this year, I was like, 'This is a great opportunity for me to come out here and redeem myself.'
"It was all set up. It was set up and I had a chance to do it again and that's all I needed. All I needed was another chance. I didn't get invited for seven years. Seven, eight years, I never got invited again and this was the opportunity where I got invited, and I took advantage of it this time."
Eight years ago in Philadelphia isn't the only historical footnote. The last time Dallas hosted All-Star weekend, in 1986 at now-demolished Reunion Arena, Larry Bird won the same competition as a Celtic.
"The stars were lined up, I guess," Pierce said.
So were the shots. And the shot at redemption.
2009: Miami's Daequan Cook ended Jason Kapono's two-year reign as the NBA's best exhibition sharpshooter, besting Orlando's Rashard Lewis in overtime in Phoenix.
Cook set up a winner-take-all by rallying late to tie Lewis at 15 and eliminate Kapono during the three-man finals. Cook nailed the money ball to force another 60 seconds and five racks.
"I was actually doing the math as I was shooting," Cook said.
Once in the Contest's shootout, Cook had little trouble as the Orlando swingman couldn't muster any magic. Lewis didn't connect until the third rack and petered out with seven points. Cook, sensing the title his for the taking, had it wrapped up halfway through the round and coasted to 19 points.
Kapono was gunning to join Hall of Famer Larry Bird and Craig Hodges as the only players to win the contest three consecutive years.
2008: Kapono kept his Contest title and dominated the 2008 field for good measure, too.
Kapono notched 25 points in the final round in New Orleans, tying the all-time record set in 1986 by Mark Price. He set a new mark for most points in a final round of the Shootout, flipping in 20-of-25 shot attempts (including 10 in a row from the third ball of the first rack to the second ball of the third rack) for a total of 25 points.
Kapono vanquished the Cavs' Daniel Gibson in the finals to become the first back-to-back winner since Peja Stojakovic won the 2002 and 2003 titles.
2007: Kapono tied Mark Price's final-round record with 24 points and outlasted Gilbert Arenas on his way to the 2007 Contest title in Las Vegas. Arenas notched a first-round high of 23 points and had 17 in the finals. Defending champion Dirk Nowitzki had 20 in round one and nine in the finals, and Kapono narrowly made the finals with a first-round score of 19. Mike Miller (18), Damon Jones (15) and Jason Terry (10) were eliminated early.
2006: Dirk Nowitzki defeated Arenas and Ray Allen to take home the victory in the Contest as part of All-Star Weekend in Houston. Nowitzki finished the 2006 competition with 18 points in the final round, while Arenas tallied 16 and Allen collected 15. Defending champion Quentin Richardson failed to make it out of the first round. He and Chauncey Billups both banked 12 points. Dirk's teammate Jason Terry finished with 13 first-round points.
2005: Quentin Richardson of the Suns burned the local favorite by revealing a hot hand. Richardson made his final nine shots to capture the Shootout in Denver, defeating defending champion Voshon Lenard and Kyle Korver in the finals.
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