Every year, I get really excited to watch the Saturday night spectacle. The Skills Challenge, Three Point Shootout, and the Dunk Contest almost never fail to amaze to some degree. Sometimes, the degree to which they amaze isn’t what you’d hope for.
Anyways, let’s recap it.
Rest in peace, my beloved. I miss you. (Team Bosh forever)
Spencer Dinwiddie took home the Skills Challenge, returning the trophy to the guards. He defeated the Finnisher, Lauri Markkanen.
The Skills Challenge is always fun to kick things off but by the end of the night, it feels without its super defining moments. Lots of solid ball-handling and overall play — if you can run into your three, you’re more likely to win (so many comeback wins!).
Notable Moment: Joel Embiid lost control of the ball in his first-round matchup against Al Horford. He still won.
Three Point Shootout
With the potential to be the best event of the evening, I was surprised to see so many shooters come out flat-footed in the 1st round. The highest total in the first round was champion Devin Booker’s 19. He defeated both surprise finalist Tobias Harris and not-surprise finalist Klay Thompson, as Booker added a new-format record 28 in the final round. Thompson had a shot to take him down but ultimately fell short towards the end.
As for a key reason Raptors fans were tuned in, there is no doubt in my mind that Kyle Lowry, participating for the third time and hoping to advance for the first time, was relieved to go after Paul George tonight.
However, the format still doesn’t totally fit Lowry’s preferred shot — running into a pull-up jumper. He didn’t put up nine like Paul George — who came out and put together a flat-footed round, complete with side-of-the-backboard-hitting jumpers — but Lowry did put up only 11. Oh well. Kyle, Raps fans love you so I don’t think I’m alone in saying that it might be time to hang up the sneakers on this competition.
Notable Moment: Booker’s final round set records — but really only for the new format with a moneyball rack.
Devin Booker left no doubt in the three-point contest with this record-setting performance! pic.twitter.com/TJgEGTGVcE— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 18, 2018
It felt like the most even field in years, given the conspicuous absence of any former champion. But ultimately, it was not a night for fans of dunks on 1st attempts.
A quick enough recap of most of the good stuff from the 1st round: Donovan Mitchell brought out a second net in the longest con of all, using the backboard of that net to pass to himself for a dunk on the original net. Larry Nance Jr. did a not-so-quick change in honour of his dad. Victor Oladipo tried some things and disappointed, not unlike his last dunk contest appearance. Dennis Smith Jr. tried some things and fell just short — his complete disregard for the showmanship might have been my favourite thing of the night.
Advancing to the finals was Mitchell and Nance Jr. They both pulled some excellent dunks out of their bag of tricks, but the trophy went to Mitchell.
Mitchell’s divisive (at least among the people I watched with) final dunk was a
remake of tribute to the dunk contest gracing televisions 18 years ago. He did the classic Vince Carter “It’s Over” dunk — and his score was enough to end the night. The dude/future NBA star knows how to put on a show.
And with that, it was over.
Donovan Mitchell with a Vince Carter homage. pic.twitter.com/no8vWRwgSK— RealGM (@RealGM) February 18, 2018
Notable Moment: Mitchell opened the show strongly by nailing his first attempt off a second backboard. But I liked the Dennis Smith, Jr. between the legs and switching hands dunk the best. And then, the Nance, Jr. off-the-backboard-at-the-last-second dunk will probably age like a fine wine. DJ Khaled’s consistent inconsistence with his scores was fun. Chris Rock’s reactions were also cool. This Notable Moment turned into several notable moments.