An early lead meant nothing at the 2019 Taco Bell Skills Challenge. In all seven head-to-head matchups on Saturday, the winner was the player that was trailing after the mid-course pass (the most difficult skill in the challenge). In the final round, that was the Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum, who banked in a running 3-pointer from the mid-court line to defeat the Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young, who missed his pull-up 3-pointer as Tatum's heave dropped through the net.
"The previous two rounds, the guy was ahead of me," Tatum said. "Figured I'd let him get a shot attempt so I could get closer to the 3-point line. I didn't want to give Trae a chance. I honestly didn't know I was going to hit the shot, but I had to give myself a chance, throw it up there, and it worked out for the best."
In the semifinals, Tatum eliminated Denver's Nikola Jokic by draining his first three after Jokic built a lead by firing his first one-handed pass through the circle. And in a matchup of two guys traded for each other in last year's Draft, Luka Doncic had a slight edge over Young after connecting on his first pass, but Young beat him down the floor for the layup and then connected on his first 3-point attempt.
In the first round, Jokic eliminated Orlando's Nikola Vucevic by draining his first 3-pointer, and Tatum eliminated Memphis' Mike Conley when Conley missed his first two threes. Doncic eliminated the Lakers' Kyle Kuzma, who missed his first three 3-point attempts. And Young eliminated the Kings' De'Aaron Fox by hitting a running three after Fox missed his first attempt.
* * *
• Mike Conley, Grizzlies
• Luka Doncic, Mavericks
• De'Aaron Fox, Kings
• Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
• Kyle Kuzma, Lakers
• Jayson Tatum, Celtics
• Nikola Vucevic, Magic
• Trae Young, Hawks
WINNER: Jayson Tatum
Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets was unable to defend his 2018 title due to injury.
- Jokic beats Vucevic
- Tatum beats Conley
- Young beats Fox
- Doncic beats Kuzma
- Tatum beats Jokic
- Young beats Doncic
- Tatum beats Young
• Official Release: Two All-Stars, two rookies among eight-player field
Taco Bell® Skills Challenge Winners
- 2003 – Jason Kidd, New Jersey
- 2004 – Baron Davis, New Orleans
- 2005 – Steve Nash, Phoenix
- 2006 – Dwyane Wade, Miami
- 2007 – Dwyane Wade, Miami
- 2008 – Deron Williams, Utah
- 2009 – Derrick Rose, Chicago
- 2010 – Steve Nash, Phoenix
- 2011 – Stephen Curry, Golden State
- 2012 – Tony Parker, San Antonio
- 2013 – Damian Lillard, Portland
- 2014 – Trey Burke, Utah and Damian Lillard, Portland
- 2015 – Patrick Beverley, Houston
- 2016 – Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota
- 2017 – Kristaps Porzingis, New York
- 2018 – Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn
- 2019 – Jayson Tatum, Boston