Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley is best known as a tenacious defender rather than as an offensive force, but that didn't stop him from taking home some hardware on All-Star Saturday Night. Beverley bested Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight in the finals to take home the title in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.
The second event of All-Star Saturday Night adopted a new tournament format this year featuring eight players over three single-elimination rounds. Two players ran a shorter-than-usual course simultaneously while dribbling around statue defenders, passing through a ring, making a lay-up at the other end of the court, and dribbling to the opposite side to hit a three-pointer.
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Beverley defeated Phoenix Suns point guard Isaiah Thomas in the first round, came back from a rough time with the passing ring to beat Atlanta Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague, and did the same to take down Knight in the finals. Every round of the competition appeared to come down to the final three-point shot — those who struggled to make it within three tries tended to lose no matter how big a lead they had won in the other aspects of the competition.
Beverley was a surprise winner both because of his skillset and late inclusion in the Skills Challenge. He was only added to the field on Tuesday following Washington Wizards All-Star John Wall's decision to remove himself from the event. While Beverley nominally acts as the Rockets' point guard, league-leading scorer James Harden tends to initiate the majority of their offense. Beverley has been effective in his role, though, shooting 36.5 percent from beyond the arc and dishing out a career-high 3.3 assists per game. A restricted free agent this summer, he figures to earn a substantial raise on the strength of his excellent defense and understanding of his strengths and weaknesses.
Beverley's victory makes it six straight seasons for Western Conference players in this event. Damian Lillard and Trey Burke (who lost to Knight in the first round this year) won it in 2014 during the NBA's ill-fated experiment with conference-based competition in all All-Star Saturday Night events. An Eastern Conference player has not won since Derrick Rose in 2009.
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