NEW ORLEANS — Damian Lillard’s busy All-Star Saturday night started out pretty darn well — with a repeat win.
Lillard will be in all three major events on the evening and first out of the gate he and Trey Burke teamed up to win the NBA All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge — by just one tenth of a second over the all-rookie team of Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo. Lillard was the defending champion in this event.
The event was changed up this year. First it became a tandem of players trying to work through the challenges passing off the ball in between, not an individual event (part of the NBA’s effort to make All-Star Saturday more of an East vs. West event). Plus, the challenges themselves were changed — gone was the bounce pass station, for example.
Didn’t matter to Lillard.
Lillard and Burke advanced to the final by first beating a team of Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson (who lollygagged through the course) and Phoenix’s Goran Dragic. In their first run Burke and Lillard’s time of 40.6 was the best of any tandem all night.
Carter-Williams and Oladipo (your two Rookie of the Year leaders) advanced by knocking off a team of Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. We at PBT are big Antetokounmpo fans but this is not an event in the raw rookie’s wheelhouse — he missed on the chest pass and knocking down a top of the key jumper.
In the final showdown, Carter-Williams and Oladipo both missed on the chest pass and struggled with the jumper.
It seemed like something Lillard and Burke could beat as both were just quicker with the ball in this event, but a couple missed shots made it go right down to the wire.
“I started to hear the crowd and you continue to glance up and looked up at the clock and I knew it was close,” Burke said, adding he thought it was going to be a tie.
Still it’s a win is a win, and Lillard is your repeat Skills Challenge winner.