It has become popular, considering the NBA’s marked improvement in 3-point marksmanship, to call the 3-point shootout the marquee event of not only the All-Star Saturday night lineup, but the entire weekend. This year’s competition didn’t bust any records, and it did have some NBA-influenced mitigating factors, but the contest did follow through on its promise. Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry hit for 27 points in the final round in a fantastic display to win his first Shootout trophy.
With a lineup featuring the NBA’s leading scorer, last year’s All-Star Game MVP, a player who recently set a record for points in a single quarter, last year’s champion, two MVP candidates, and perhaps the greatest 3-point shooter ever, the shootout figured to be a sound draw.
[Slideshow: Best photos from NBA All-Star Saturday night]
By nature of the talent behind this group, however, James Harden (the league’s leading scorer and an MVP candidate), the defending champion Marco Belinelli, Los Angeles Clippers sharpshooter J.J. Redick (who in a rare instance had two makes waved off after he stepped on the 3-point line, costing him three points), and even Kyle Korver (on pace to shatter the NBA record for 3-point percentage) were out in the first round. Portland’s Wesley Matthews scored 22 points in his first round, enough to usually win the shootout in some years, and he was still knocked out after his first go-round.
It was fellow Warrior Klay Thompson (24 points in the first round), former shootout champion and 2014 All-Star Game MVP Kyrie Irving (23) and Curry (23) who would gear up for the final round. Irving managed just 18 points in his last turn, Curry caught fire to the tune of scoring 27 out of a possible 34 points (including 13 straight makes) just after, and Thompson disappointed by only hitting for 14 points as his fellow Splash Brother watched from the sidelines.
Curry leads the NBA in 3-point makes this season, and he led the league in both makes and attempts in 2013 and 2014, but oddly his current 3-point percentage would rank as the worst of his career if it sustains. At 39.9 percent, Stephen’s mark would rank him as a lights-out sharpshooter in any other context, but after entering the season shooting a white-hot 44 percent from long range on his career, he’s actually taking a small step back.
The Warriors don’t mind. Not only is Curry the go-to scorer on what at times has ranked as the NBA’s best offense, his all-around game has pushed him into the MVP discussion. Golden State entered the All-Star break with a fantastic 42-9 record, league-best mark that puts the team on pace for 68 wins. It should also be noted that Stephen Curry is also a really great guy.
One drawback during an otherwise fun time out was the NBA’s move to run the TNT commentary of Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller into the Barclays Center’s public address feed. Not only did their insipid back and forth reek of pointless radio-chat-show yammering, but the league did the festivities one step worse – there was actual canned crowd noise, obviously fake applause, being fed into the speakers and/or TNT broadcast feed after every make.
The 3-point shootout is just fine where it is. It will never inspire the sort of immediate cheers and gusto reserved for even the lamest of dunk contests, but that’s just fine. The NBA doesn’t need to create a spectacle out of the event, especially when helmed by some of the league’s least-loved in-game commentators. The fake splash of applause on top of it all was just embarrassing.
The NBA’s 3-point shooting is as good as it has ever been, as evidenced by a shootout-high 27 points being saved for the final round by the best player on the NBA’s best team. The only change we’d ask, beyond the PA commentary nonsense and obvious fake crowd noise, would be to add a few more rounds – because it is so damn fun to watch this bunch let fly from 24 feet.
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