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2016 All-Star Weekend --- Thompson, LaVine shine in ​State Farm All​-​Star Saturday Night


PhilBoxing.com




T​ORONTO -- ​On a bitterly cold night in the warm confines of the Air Canada Centre, the latest edition of the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night proved to be one of the most scintillating in recent memory.

The evening led off with the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, which featured a new format. While it still utilized a tournament-style bracket, it featured both frontcourt and backcourt players who navigated an obstacle course of; dribbling, passing, rebounding, and shooting.

In ​this way, the traditionally backcourt-focused competition tipped its hat to the growing movement towards “small ball” and acknowledge the skills of the game’s big men.

Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson lost out to the Blazers’ CJ McCollum in the first guard round. Boston’s first time All-Star Isiah Thomas beat out Nuggets rookie Emmanuel Mudiay. In the frontcourt, Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins came off a slow start to beat out Pelicans’ big man Anthony Davis, while rookie upstart Karl Anthony Towns had the edge on Golden State’s Draymond Green.

Thomas won the backcourt bracket and Towns won the frontcourt bracket. In an upset in the final round, the big man Towns beat out the slick skilled point guard Thomas. Towns spoke about the significance of a frontcourt player winning the Skills Challenge, saying, “This moment is bigger than me. This is a moment that hopefully the NBA can cherish for a long time to see the transition of guards and bigs only having to be on the post, but can also be outside dribbling the ball, dribble up the court and shoot threes. So I think this was much bigger than myself, but it shows that bigs are translating into a new facet of their games.”

Top photo: Golden State's Klay Thompson shoots a trey as teammate Steph Curry looks on.


Zack LaVine takes off from the foul line to dunk.

The Skills Challenge was followed by the much anticipated Foot Locker Three Point Contest. Defending champion Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was there to defend his title in the field of eight of the sharpest shooters in the league.

Both Curry and teammate Klay Thompson passed through the first round with relative ease. The preliminary round ended in a 30 second shootout for the last berth in the final round, won by rookie Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns.

In the end, it was the Splash duo of Thompson and Curry in a shootout. Thompson would win out on his MVP teammate to claim the crown. When asked about the significance of this title, Thompson remarked, “Just the fact I got to go up against Steph in the finals again. It was like déjà vu [from] last year…. Back-to-back years for Splash Brothers, it’s pretty cool.”

And when asked about how long he would have bragging rights over Curry? “About 364 days- but that’s a daily thing we do. We love to shoot against each other. You know, I’ve never been on a team with someone who shoots better than me, so it’s a privilege to work with him every day. He makes me that much better.”

The Verizon Slam Dunk contest featured four of the game’s most prolific dunkers, with the field including defending champion Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Coming off of his turn as MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge last night, LaVine was on a roll. He easily qualified for the last round and it seemed a continuation of his dominant performance last year.

The tightly contested final was a flurry of acrobatic artistry and pitted LaVine against Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic. It featured six perfect scores (of 50) in a row, a first in the history of the NBA Slam Dunk competition, and an “overtime” of sorts when LaVIne and Gordon were knotted at 100 at the end of the two dunk final. What followed was an exhibition of on-your-feet creativity and athleticism and ended when LaVine score a final perfect 50 to defend his title.

Of the competition, Gordon had this to say: “It could have gone either way. Zach is an incredible dunker, he went through the legs from the free-throw line. That is insane. So off that dunk you’ve got to give it to him. That’s why the trophy is with him and not with me.”


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Adeline Deladisma.


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