Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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NBA All-Star Saturday winners and losers: Curry and Ionescu steal the show in otherwise lackluster night

Another NBA All-Star Saturday Night is in the books. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to write about on what was ultimately a rather lackluster night in Indianapolis. The Stephen vs. Sabrina challenge, which easily stole the show, is likely the only reason anyone will remember this iteration of the annual showcase. 

With all of the action concluded, here’s a look at Saturday night’s winners and losers. 

Winner: Steph and Sabrina

There was a new event on the scene this year, as Golden State Warriors legend Steph Curry accepted a challenge from WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu for a special one-round 3-point shootout. Curry got hot at the end to escape with a 29-26 victory, but both of them are winners for bringing some genuine excitement to the night. 

This historic showdown should have been the main event. No player or pundit could go anywhere in the lead up without being asked for their pick, and it was clear all weekend that it was the only aspect of the night that anyone really cared about. Even better, it lived up to the hype.

Ionescu went first and made her first seven shots before finishing with a 26 — a score that matched the best output by anyone in the 3-Point Contest. That would not be enough, however, as Curry hit eight of his last 10 shots to record a 29 and a three-point shootout win — a fitting margin. 

Both said they want the event back in the future. Let’s hope they get their wish. 

Loser: The Dunk Contest

The NBA is never going to get rid of the Dunk Contest, or even change it to a biennial or quadrennial event. They probably should, though, because this year’s edition was another reminder that it has lost its luster. As much fun as Mac McClung’s debut was last year, that was simply a one-off rather than a sign that the Dunk Contest was “saved,” as many proclaimed at the time. 

McClung won it again this year, sneaking past Jaylen Brown by a narrow margin, but his second appearance did not have the same juice. No one else did much to help him. Not the other dunkers, and certainly not the broadcast, which completely missed Brown’s first dunk in real time. The judges didn’t help either, with scores that were questionable all night long. 

This certainly wasn’t the worst dunk contest we’ve ever seen, but it was totally forgettable. 

Winner: Damian Lillard

Heading into Saturday night, it had been over a decade since someone had gone back-to-back in the 3-Point Contest, and even Lillard didn’t know that it was former Toronto Raptors marksman Jason Kapono in 2007 and 2008. That trivia question will be a lot easier now that Lillard took home the trophy in Indianapolis. 

He did so in dramatic fashion, hitting his final shot of the championship round to get past Trae Young, 26-24. Lillard seemed to be well on his way to victory, but missed the first four shots of his last rack. As the seconds ticked away, he settled himself and came up clutch in Dame Time, just as he has so often done throughout his career. 

With his win, Lillard joined Larry Bird (3x), Craig Hodges (3x), Steph Curry, Jeff Hornacek, Kapono, Mark Price and Peja Stojakovic as the only multi-time winners. He is the first to win it while playing for two different franchises, and joined Ray Allen as the second Milwaukee Buck to pull off the feat. 

Loser: The too-cool-for-school Skills Challenge participants

For some reason, the NBA has forged ahead with this revamped Skills Challenge format that features three teams instead of individual participants. This time around, it was Team Pacers, Team Top Picks (made up of No. 1 overall draft picks) and Team All-Stars (a random assortment of All-Stars).

Team Pacers lifted the trophy in front of their hometown fans, in large part because they were the only team that seemed to care. That was certainly the case early on, as Team Top Picks and Team All-Stars lollygagged through the opening event and routinely broke the rules. 

If players don’t want to participate, that’s totally fine. But if you’re going to show up, you might as well at least try. 

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