Winner: Kristaps Porzingis
Runner-Up: Gordon Hayward
More: NBA All-Star 2017 complete coverage
NEW ORLEANS – The big men did it again.
For the second straight year, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge was a matchup of big men vs. perimeter players, and for the second straight year, it was a big taking home the trophy.
The New York Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis followed in the footsteps of Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns, winning the Skills Challenge by edging out Utah's Gordon Hayward in the final round.
After weaving through an obstacle course, both players connected on their first chest pass and they were even after making a layup on the other end of the floor. Then, after racing back, Porzingis drained his first 3-point attempt from the top of the key as Hayward's first shot was off the mark.
"It's a good feeling that I'm able to showcase my skill with my size and show to the kids that you're capable of doing that even if you're tall and lanky like me," Porzingis said afterward. "I think a lot of kids now growing up will improve those perimeter skills just seeing guys like -- I don't want to mention myself, but big guys with perimeter skills that can do it."
Hayward eliminated Boston's Isaiah Thomas in the semifinals, making his sixth jumper after both players missed their first five. Porzingis knocked out Denver's Nikola Jokic, gaining an early lead by connecting on his first chest pass and sinking his second jumper before Jokic banked in a desperation heave from well beyond the 3-point line.
In the first round, Hayward eliminated Washington's John Wall, who couldn't make the final shot, and Thomas eliminated the Suns' Devin Booker, who struggled to connect on the chest pass. On the big man half of the bracket, Porzingis edged out Kings center DeMarcus Cousins by draining his fourth jumper before Cousins could get to his third, and Jokic came from behind to beat the Pelicans' Anthony Davis by making his first jumper after Davis missed his.
These days, big men can do a lot more than score inside, and the NBA's collection of young bigs with perimeter skills goes well beyond the four guys who participated on Saturday. Jokic replaced Philadelphia's Joel Embiid, who is dealing with a knee injury, and Towns wasn't back to defend his title.