CLEVELAND — Chalk one up for the home team.
In a frenetic, confusing, and not exactly smooth (to be kind) rollout of a new three-team, four-challenge NBA Skills Competition format, the trio of Cavaliers — Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen — won after Mobley drained a half-court shot.
EVAN MOBLEY FROM HALFCOURT TO WIN #TacoBellSkills FOR TEAM CAVS IN CLEVELAND!#StateFarmSaturday #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/TKYL6eiafZ
— NBA (@NBA) February 20, 2022
“I felt it when it came off, you could see me,” Mobley said, holding the 3-point pose during the press conference.
“He’s one of a kind: Defense, offense, and now half-court shots,” Allen said of Mobley.
The Cavs won, the NBA’s attempt to breathe life into a stale event did not.
Among its flaws, the new format was too long, had a strange points scoring structure, and at times rewarded players for missing shots so long they missed them quickly (not exactly a skill the league wants to show off). The NBA is doing well in trying new things to shake up stale formats — it worked with the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night — but for every home run there will be a strikeout. This was a swing and a miss.
It started with a shooting contest — each player taking turns shooting from five spots on the floor, each spot worth 1-5 points, with as many shots as they could get up in :30 — which was the most straightforward of the challenges. The team of rookies — Josh Giddey (Thunder), Cade Cunningham (Pistons) and Scottie Barnes (Raptors) — scored 36, Josh Giddey racking up half of those thanks to his hot shooting from the corner. The Antetokounmpo brothers — Giannis, Thanasis and Alex — are not a trio known for their shooting and they were out of it quickly.
But the Cavs could shoot with Mobley and Garland, and they won the first event.
Evan Mobley and Darius Garland close out the first round of #TacoBellSkills with a show for the Cleveland crowd! 🔥
Team @cavs in the lead on TNT pic.twitter.com/5vMS172BPh
— NBA (@NBA) February 20, 2022
The new passing challenge was frenetic — three teams of three working at once, passing through three moving targets, but no player could pass through the same target twice, so it was a lot of running and switching — and was hard to follow. There was no scoring at home with this one.
"This is poetry right here" 🙌
Cavs were in sync during the #TacoBellSkills challenge pic.twitter.com/pGugDBdLCw
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 20, 2022
The Antetokounmpo Brothers and Rooks tied in the passing round with 88 points, but the Antetokounmpo’s won on the tiebreaker (the most successful passes to the outlet pass target).
Then came the relay, which looked a lot like the old skills challenge race (but with fancier obstacles to dribble around and shoot over. It was here that teams could move on after three missed shots — from floater range or the corner — but if they missed the first couple it was better to throw up a third shot to get it over with fast. The Rooks won this one.
After all of that, Team Cleveland and Team Antetokounmpo had to have a 3-point shot playoff to break a tie and advance to the final round. Garland won that one for the Cavs with a three.
Then, finally (and mercifully), came the half-court shot finale. It didn’t last long thanks to Mobley.
And the hometown team got the win, so the crowd was happy.
Now we can all wait a year to see how the NBA changes this up.