Sabonis Reflects on Runner-Up Finish in Skills Competition

Feb. 15, 2020 - Pacers All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis speaks with the media after finishing as the runner-up in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at All-Star Saturday Night.

All-Star Saturday 2020

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Sabonis Reflects on Runner-Up Finish in Skills Competition

Feb. 15, 2020 - Pacers All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis speaks with the media after finishing as the runner-up in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at All-Star Saturday Night.
Feb 15, 2020  |  01:35

2020 Skills Challenge: Sabonis Tops Middleton in Semifinals

Feb. 15, 2020 - Pacers All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis beats Bucks forward Khris Middleton in the semifinals of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at All-Star Saturday Night.
Feb 15, 2020  |  00:51

2020 Skills Challenge: Sabonis Beats Tatum in Quarterfinals

Feb. 15, 2020 - Pacers All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis knocks off defending champion Jayson Tatum in the quarterfinals of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at All-Star Saturday Night.
Feb 15, 2020  |  00:47

2020 Skills Challenge: Sabonis Falls to Adebayo in Finals

Feb. 15, 2020 - Pacers All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis falls to Heat big man Bam Adebayo in the finals of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge at All-Star Saturday Night.
Feb 15, 2020  |  00:49

Sabonis on LeBron's Impersonation of Him

Feb. 15, 2020 - Pacers All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis laughs about LeBron James impersonating him at Saturday's All-Star Practice.
Feb 15, 2020  |  00:18

Sabonis on All-Star Experience

Feb. 15, 2020 - Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis speaks at Media Day about being a first-time All-Star, being surrounded by the world's best players, and representing the Pacers and his family.
Feb 15, 2020  |  01:44

Sabonis on Becoming an All-Star

Feb. 15, 2020 - Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis reflects on what enabled him to become a first-time All-Star this season.
Feb 15, 2020  |  00:35

Sabonis on Pacers' Success, Advice from Oladipo and Father

Feb. 15, 2020 - Pacers All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis discusses Indiana's success, then shared the advice Victor Oladipo gave him for All-Star Weekend and the coaching tips he gets from his father, Hall of Fame center Arvydas Sabonis.
Feb 15, 2020  |  00:45

Busy All-Star Saturday for Sabonis

Pacers Big Man Caps Night with Runner-Up Finish in Skills Challenge
by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis was a busy man on Saturday in Chicago, taking part in All-Star Media Day and practice at Wintrust Arena before heading to the United Center to take part in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, part of All-Star Saturday Night.

At Media Day, Sabonis impressed with his fluency in multiple languages, seamlessly transitioning from English to Lithuanian to Spanish during a 20-minute session with media from all across the globe.

As a first-time All-Star, the 23-year-old Sabonis admitted it was a surreal experience being selected to share the court with the NBA's biggest stars.

PHOTOS: Domantas Sabonis at 2020 All-Star Weekend »

"It's like a dream being here with all these players," he said. "I was just in the locker room with all the guys and it's crazy, all these greats in there. It's pretty cool.

"You're sitting there, you have all these All-Stars next to you. I'm just there just enjoying it, talking to some of the guys and enjoying the experience."

Sabonis reflected about his journey to the All-Star Game. He averaged just 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds as a rookie with Oklahoma City in 2016-17. His role increased after he and Victor Oladipo were traded to Indiana for Paul George in the summer of 2017, but he started just 24 of 148 games in his first two seasons with the Blue & Gold.

After moving into a starting role this season, the 6-11 forward out of Gonzaga has emerged as one of the top big men in the Eastern Conference. He leads Indiana and is sixth in the NBA in rebounding, averaging 12.5 boards per contest. He also ranks second on the Pacers in scoring (18.3 points per game) and field goal percentage (.541). He has tallied 41 double-doubles and four triple-doubles already and is threatening to break the NBA franchise record in both categories.

"You've just got to keep working," Sabonis said. "Once you get invited to these Rising Stars Games, that's not a sign that you've made it. That's a sign that you've got to keep working hard and get bigger goals. I feel like every year I've improved and I've put myself in (the right) situations to be here."

Sabonis also reflected on his famous father, Hall of Fame center Arvydas Sabonis ("he's very proud of me") and the depth of the Pacers' roster ("I couldn't be here without my teammates").

After Media Day, Sabonis took the court with the rest of Team LeBron for a fun practice session. Former Pacers coach Frank Vogel — now the coach of the Lakers and Team LeBron — led the practice session, where players interacted with young fans, took part in shooting challenges, and at one point welcomed the USA Basketball women's national team to the floor.

Sabonis had fun with the experience, joking with his teammates. James even appeared to lightly tease Sabonis at one point with his impression of the Lithuanian's bruising post moves.

"They were impersonating my shoulder hitch, clearing people out of the way and laying it up," Sabonis said. "I thought it was funny. The guards were laughing, (but) the bigs weren't laughing."

Near the end of practice, the players gathered at midcourt and attempted a number of halfcourt heaves. Sabonis laid back as most of his teammates missed before eventually being goaded into trying himself. He drilled the shot on his first attempt, the first player to make one, then pumped his fist in celebration.

In the Skills Challenge, Sabonis put together an impressive performance. The Skills Challenge pits two players head-to-head in a basketball obstacle course that features running up and down the court before hitting a layup and then racing back to the other end to make a 3-point shot.

In the opening round, Sabonis had the unenviable task of facing Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, the defending champion in the event. Still, Sabonis raced out to an early lead, but bobbled the ball after his layup, allowing Tatum to pass him. Still, Sabonis recovered quickly and swished his second 3-point attempt to advance.

In the semifinals, the Pacers All-Star squared off with Milwaukee's Khris Middleton. This time, both players struggled with the final shot, but Sabonis used his third attempt to knock Middleton's ball off course and then quickly made his next attempt to move on to the finals.

In the last round, Sabonis' Cinderella run came to an end when Adebayo hit the 3-pointer on his third attempt.

Still, Sabonis said he greatly enjoyed the competition. He admitted he only got a few minutes' practice on Saturday night before the competition and was nervous about the passing obstacle, though he cleared that on his first attempt in all three rounds.

"It was a lot of fun," Sabonis said. "A lot of nerves. I got pretty tired, actually, but it was a great experience."

Sabonis also said he made a strategic error in the finals against Adebayo.

"I should have shot my second shot properly," he said. "I tried to rush it so hopefully it would knock his ball out because he shot before me. But I should have shot it normally."

The mad rush to make a 3-pointer at the end of each round was reminiscent of Sabonis' pregame ritual with Victor Oladipo, where the two friends touch basketballs together and then race to hit a shot before the other.

"I was thinking about that," Sabonis said. "If I had won, I was like, I'm going to give credit to Vic."

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