Unsurprisingly, in a Skills Competition meant to encourage fundamental play and sound point guard instinct, a double-clutch dunk may have cost the runners-up the title. Somewhere, old men in sweaters that you would never want to watch an All-Star Game with are smiling.
Team East, led by Rookie of the Year candidates Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo, lost by a tenth of a second in the event on Saturday night in New Orleans. Team West, led by returning champion Damian Lillard and rookie Trey Burke, won by a sliver after Burke’s lay-in gave the team the advantage. Oladipo was charged with finishing his team’s possession in the final round, but a brief (and fantastic) double-clutch dunk may have cost his team the win by the slimmest of recorded margins, as Team West finished with a 45.2 second time in the final round to Team East’s 45.3 second time.
Watch Oladipo's dunk:
In a new, teammate-based format, the competition took on an interesting wrinkle as players were allowed to dish to each other to finish off the obstacle course. Squads featuring Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson (who seemed strangely slowed while loping across the court) and DeMar DeRozan and rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo fell short in the opening round. The new relay format made it so one participant while a teammate waited, followed by a score, dribbling through stanchions, a pass through a modified peach basket from 20-feet away, a top of the key jumper, and then another run through stanchions before dishing to a teammate. The teammate would then start the process again.
The event was rather unremarkable, though it was fun to watch these young guards work through the fundamentals. No player really struggled with any particular part of the run to an extreme degree, though the TNT analysts were quick to point out that Jackson seemed to be giving the contest a bit of a miss, and it was Burke’s blast of speed that helped the Western side of things take the title.
The West's win earned one local student $30,000 in scholarships and a $30,000 donation to a local Boys & Girls club from a corporate sponsor. The NBA also contributed Teach for America & Wounded Warrior Project in the winners' name. The conquest marked the first award of the evening for Lillard, who has a chance to win both the Three-Point Shootout and Slam Dunk Contest as the night moves along.
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