Fitting Finish in Skills Challenge

By Josh Cohen
Feb. 15, 2014

NEW ORLEANS – It was in many ways very appropriate that the final of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at All-Star Weekend in New Orleans was decided by a time differential of one tenth of a second.

Considering the tandems – Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams representing the East and Damian Lillard and Trey Burke embodying the West – the minuscule disparity may be a hint that the talent gap between these young blossoming point guards is too difficult to assess.

After advancing past the opening round in their respective conferences, Lillard and Burke finished the obstacle course with a winning time of 45.2 seconds. Oladipo and Carter-Williams completed it at 45.3 seconds.

"We demand a rematch," Oladipo said. "We're going to come back next year, same teams, same people. Me and Mike we trying to get that victory."

It was fitting in many ways that these four were the final participants remaining in the competition. Lillard was last season’s Rookie of the Year and was selected to his first All-Star Game this year, while Vic, MCW and Burke are the three existing frontrunners for the rookie honor this season.

While there are already plenty of first-class point guards circulating around the league – Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker to name a few – it wouldn’t be surprising in a few years if the rookies and lone sophomore are also considered elite at their position.

The rivalries brewing between the four phenoms are also rather intriguing. Against one another, Oladipo, Carter-Williams and Burke have all been dazzling. In a thriller between the Magic and Sixers in early December in Philadelphia, Vic and MCW became the first rookies ever to record triple-doubles in the same game. Burke, meanwhile, erupted for a career-best 30 points in a game in Orlando.

Lillard is now a two-time champion in the Skills Challenge after winning it last season when it was achieved individually. The format of the contest changed this season to feature four pairs, two from each conference.

The other participants in Saturday’s Skills Challenge included DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Reggie Jackson and Goran Dragic.

Afflalo Falls Short in Three-Point Contest

Arron Afflalo was eliminated in the First Round of the Foot Locker Three Point Contest, though he did finish with a solid score of 15.

Bradley Beal racked up a 21 spot in the East side of the bracket to advance but he would eventually lose to the West representative, Marco Belinelli, in a championship round tiebreaker.

Though an All-Star Game snub, Afflalo’s improvement this season as a 3-point shooter earned him an invite to the competition. He is shooting nearly 43 percent from long distance and is averaging a career-best 19.4 points per game.

"Weekend was fun," Afflalo said. "I'm highly motivated now that this weekend is behind me. I'm thankful to the NBA for the opportunity and to the Magic for the opportunity."