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The NBA’s regular season took a break this weekend, but one thing has remained constant: The Cavaliers keep winning.
The Wine and Gold have enjoyed a charmed campaign so far, and All-Star Weekend in Cleveland has only served as extension of the positive mojo. One night after Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro helped Team Barry capture the Clorox Rising Stars Game, a trio of Cavaliers teamed up to take the Taco Bell Skills Challenge in dramatic fashion on All-Star Saturday night.
The Cavs were one of three teams competing in the night’s opening event – with the young troika of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen squaring off against the Rooks (Cade Cunningham, Josh Giddey and Scottie Barnes) and the Antetokounmpo brothers (Giannis, Thanasis and Alex).
The competition breaks down into three rounds – and the Cavs youngbloods served notice in the first, Team Shooting, netting 44 points on some deadly marksmanship by both Garland and Mobley. The Cavs fell behind in the Team Passing round, but bounced back in the Team Relay phase.
The Cavs and Antetokounmpos were tied after that first round, forcing a (brief) three-point shootout between Garland and Giannis. Garland calmly drilled his attempt and the Wine and Gold advanced to the title round against the Rooks.
Garland didn’t shoot particularly well in the following round, but he had plenty of support.
“I got two of the best players in the league on my team,” said the 3rd-year man from Vanderbilt, who’ll appear in his first career All-Star Game on Sunday. “So yeah, I had confidence the whole game.”
After another tie following three rounds against the freshman trio – the title would be decided by the first team to sink a shot from halfcourt.
It only took the Rooks’ Cunningham – who earned MVP honors in Friday night’s Rising Stars Game – 9.9 seconds to drill his halfcourt bomb. But it’s been Cleveland’s week (and year) – and Evan Mobley stepped to the timeline and drilled his dagger just 5.5 seconds into the extra session.
The Cavs prized rookie, who said the ball felt good coming off his hand, was his normal cool and collected self after the win. “I was just going out there and having fun,” said Mobley. “I just shot it, and almost all of them went in – so it was all good.”
The Wine and Gold have been one of the league’s most surprising teams headed into the midseason classic, and they’ve attributed much of that success to chemistry. That was the case again in Saturday’s Skills Challenge.
”I think just the camaraderie that we have – on and off the court – helped us win,” said Allen, who’ll make his first career All-Star Game appearance for the Eastern Conference on Sunday. “We had to go up against some brothers, so they have a tighter bond than us. But I still give us credit for how we compete for each other.”
The Cavaliers have already had an outstanding weekend – and they still have two young stars ready to show out on Sunday night. The only question is what they’ll do for an encore.