There’s nothing quite like NBA All-Star Saturday night. The electricity and showmanship of the evening’s four events make for arguably the most entertaining night of the weekend. Here’s a recap of what went down at All-Star Saturday in Brooklyn this year:
Degree Shooting Stars
Team Bosh (which once again included Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash) came into the event as the two-time defending champion, and by the time the evening was over, they’d pull off the three-peat. It wasn’t easy, though, as all four teams really put up a fight in the first round.
Team Curry went first and wrapped up the round in a very respectable 47 seconds, but Team Westbrook had an even stronger go at it, finishing in 35.2 seconds even though it took Tamika Catchings 19 seconds to make the first shot. Team Millsap had the slowest run of the first round, posting a time of 51.4 seconds, but Scottie Pippen wins the unofficial award for old-timer who still looks the closest to game shape.
Team Bosh shot last and was crazy efficient, putting up a 30.8-second round, because of course they did.
In the championship round, Team Westbrook used the full 90 seconds to go 0-for-26 from halfcourt and so were obviously unable to finish the round. That made it an easy win for Team Bosh, who finished in just under a minute. Kenny Smith was jawing about how horrible Dominique Wilkins has been at the halfcourt shot the last few years, but ultimately he was the one that sealed the three-peat for his team.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
For the first time, there was an eight-man bracket for the Skills Challenge this year. And what really made that interesting was the fact that the players pitted against each other actually ran the challenge on the floor at the same time to encourage more of a competition. In the past few years, some players have really dogged it in this thing. The on-court competition definitely helped.
First up was Isaiah Thomas and Patrick Beverley, which went pretty well until the very end when they both attempted to make a layup and ended up looking like a couple of elementary school kids playing Knock-Out. Both guys walked off laughing, though, and Beverley advanced.
Jeff Teague was in another gear against Elfrid Payton, hustling through the whole thing and hitting his very first three-point attempt to take the round. Meanwhile, defending champion Trey Burke and Brandon Knight showed the first real hustle of the evening and stayed close the entire time, but Knight ultimately closed out last year’s winner. And in the last matchup of the first round, Kyle Lowry absolutely smoked Dennis Schroder. It wasn’t even close.
That made for a final four of Beverley, Teague, Knight and Lowry. Teague jumped out to a huge lead on Beverley early and then kind of slowed down to showboat a bit, but Beverley crept up and knocked down his first three-point attempt to steal a trip to the final round. Teague could only chuckle and chuck the ball away after getting caught hot dogging.
Both Knight and Lowry were pretty efficient in their semifinal, but one missed pass from Lowry gave Knight just enough time to get off the first three-pointer, which he sunk. Lowry never even got to shoot one.
In the championship, Beverley did the same thing that he did in the previous round, botching some passes early and then falling behind Knight, ultimately sinking his first three-point attempt to take advantage of his opponent’s misses.
Beverley, who was a replacement for John Wall in the first place, ended up beating everyone to take home the Skills Challenge trophy following the most entertaining version of this event yet.
Foot Locker Three-Point Contest
There are plenty of people who thought this would be the marquee event of the night considering all of the star power involved, and it did not disappoint as there were several big-name guys that put up huge scores.
Wesley Matthews had a good first round, ringing up 22 points, while J.J. Redick got really hot about halfway through and knocked down several consecutive balls. Unfortunately, he had his foot on the line for a couple of those, which cut his score down from 19 to 17.
James Harden missed a ton of shots and finished with only 15, missing eight of his last nine attempts, to put up the lowest total of the round. Kyrie Irving, shooting in his warmup jacket, hit four of his last five shots (all money balls) to take the lead with 23 points.
Steph Curry, a lot of people’s favorite, had a “bad” round and still finished with 23. He also hit four of his last five, all money balls. Teammate Klay Thompson was unconscious through parts of his round, taking the lead with 24 points. In other words, the Warriors guards totally lived up to the hype, at least in the first round.
Things slowed down after that, though. Kyle Korver clunked a lot of shots and pinched out 18 points, but with all the talent this year that wasn’t enough to advance. Defending champion Marco Belinelli had a pretty rough round, too, and also didn’t advance.
Thompson, Irving and Curry did advance, though. Talk about star power.
Irving, who won this contest a couple of years ago, missed a ton of shots despite the TNT guys lauding him for hitting more shots “when the lights are on.” Frankly, he looked tired. The crowd never really got into it and he finished with 17, setting the stage for a champion from Golden State.
Curry’s final shoot-around was the best of the night, as he put up 27 points and hit 13 in a row at one point. Thompson, meanwhile, choked in a major way in his final round, finishing with a measly 14 points, the lowest score of the night. He’ll always have those 37 points in a quarter, though.
As the Vegas favorite to win the event, Curry held serve and won his first three-point contest. The fourth time was the charm.
Sprite Slam Dunk Contest
The dunk contest is supposed to be All-Star Saturday’s main event, but it has lost some of its luster in recent years. While not all of the participants in this year’s event brought the noise and the funk, Victor Oladipo and Zach LaVine got more butts out of seats than anything else all night. Generally speaking, it was the best dunk contest we’ve seen in a while.
In the first round, Mason Plumlee’s first dunk was fine, but it wasn’t anything that hasn’t been done before. He showed good athleticism for a guy his size, but was not the least bit electrifying. Giannis Antetokounmpo then tried to make a boring dunk look cool just because of how long he is, and while it probably would’ve been impressive had it gone in, he missed it and earned a batch of sixes his first time through.
Oladipo came out wearing a hat and tuxedo shirt while singing “New York New York” well enough to elicit smirks from Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. He missed his first two attempts at a really nasty reverse 360, but the crowd really got into it once they figured out what he was trying to do. That was the first goosebumps dunk we’ve seen in maybe three years, and it earned a deserved 50 from the judges.
The league saved LaVine for last for obvious reasons, and he made the wait worth it by bringing out the Quad City DJs to rap while LaVine donned a Jordan “Space Jam” jersey. He was the only guy to make his dunk on the first go this round, and it was a doozey through-the-legs reverse. His head almost hit the rim. Another well-earned 50.
For the second round of dunks, Antetokounmpo completed a sad little pump reverse off a low alley-oop from his brother Thanasis, and Mason Plumlee jumped over his brother Miles after missing a throw down off a lob from out of bounds. Neither dunk was all that impressive, proving that this really was a contest between Oladipo and LaVine.
Oladipo’s second dunk came off a lob from Elfrid Payton, who banged it off the side of the backboard. The pass was converted into a 360 slam that didn’t quite thunder its way through but was more than good enough to get him into the championship round.
LaVine, a maestro at this dunking thing, took a lob behind his back in the air and threw it down on the first try. Again. And he scored a 50. Again. It was easily the best dunk of the night.
In the championship, Oladipo failed to throw down his first dunk attempt, which would have been a strong one, grabbing the ball from a seated Payton and swinging it back around for a tomahawk. Without landing it, though, his scores stayed low.
LaVine, meanwhile, missed his first dunk of the night to kick off the championship round, but the second time around he nailed it, grabbing the ball from Andrew Wiggins’ hands to go through his legs in what was his least electrifying dunk of the evening. It was still a good dunk, but earned “only” straight nines from the judges.
For his last dunk, Oladipo settled for a toss off the back of the backboard for the slam after missing several opportunities to cuff a self-lob for a 360. It probably would have scored better had he just done his successful dunk the first time instead of trying the other one, but he never was beating LaVine, who sealed the deal with a toss off the stanchion that he took through his legs with seemingly minimal effort.
Without giving the fans the opportunity to vote for a “Dunker of the Night” and without a three-way tie due to the team format that was a bust last year, the NBA was able to put on one of the more entertaining dunk contests of the last several years. No crazy props this year, but lots of creative, athletic dunks. And that’s the way it should be.
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