NBA All-Star Weekend is in full swing, and All-Star Saturday Night is arguably more anticipated each year than the actually game itself. This year’s version was no exception. Here’s a quick round-up off all the events that took place in Salt Lake City.
The Skills Challenge featured three teams of three players each taking part in a relay, passing, and shooting competition. Team Rooks—featuring Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith Jr., and Jayden Ivey—dominated the team relay portion. While the relay has historically featured a less-than-stellar effort, Team Jazz’ Jordan Clarkson turned-in an all-time performance, sauntering through the course with the sense of urgency of a sloth getting out of bed.
Clarkson and his Jazz teammates—Collin Sexton, and Walker Kessler—redeemed themselves in the passing portion of the event, an overall frantic display featuring all players passing at the same time through various moving targets. The Jazz also took gold in the passing portion, though were the only team to hit more than two total shots in a minute. Team Antentokounmpo—featuring brothers Thanasis, Alex and...Jrue Holiday (filling in for an injured Giannis), failed to win an event, coming up second every time.
The NBA has tweaked the format of the Skills Challenge multiple times over the years to try and make it more watchable, but it might just be time to scrap it entirely. This was a dud, but the night was just getting started.
Portland’s own Damian Lillard entered the Three-Point Contest as the odds-on favorite to win it, and he didn’t disappoint. He finished second of the eight competitors in the the first round, with his 26 points trailing only Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton. After Haliburton’s teammate Buddy Hield started the final round with a score of 25, Dame took it right down to the wire before sinking the “money-ball” (worth two points) on his final shot to pull in front. It was more than enough to beat Haliburton’s 15.
In the Main Event, 6’2” G Leaguer Mac McClung (signed to a two-way contract this week by the Philadelphia 76ers) stole the show with dunks registering scores of 50, 49.8, 50, and 50, in one of the more impressive performances seen in recent years. He beat out the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy III in the final round, putting on an electric display. Words don’t do it justice, so just watch.
Next up is Sunday’s All-Star Game, starting with the on-court All-Star Draft at 4:30 p.m. PT. on TNT. Lillard is set to make his seventh appearance.