It wasn’t a poor showing for Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday night, but a couple of missteps was all it took for his team to be eliminated in the semifinals.
A new format was introduced this season for the competition, having four teams of two compete instead of players participating individually. Antetokounmpo was paired with Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, while the Eastern Conference’s other team was made up of Sixers guard Michael Carter-Williams and Magic guard Victor Oladipo.
The Western Conference was represented by a team of Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and Jazz guard Trey Burke and a duo of Suns guard Goran Dragic and Thunder guard Reggie Jackson.
Antetokounmpo and DeRozan went first, putting up a time of 45.0 seconds. DeRozan started, navigating through an obstacle course of a layup, dribbling around two mock defenders, a chest pass into a target, a jumper followed by a dribble leading to a pass to the Bucks rookie.
There were roughly 21 seconds on the clock when Antetokounmpo caught the ball and dunked to start his portion. He missed two passes and one shot which slowed him down. Antetokounmpo and DeRozan’s time of 45.0 would have been good enough to win the finals, but Carter-Williams and Oladipo advanced from the Eastern Conference with a time of 43.3 seconds.
Lillard and Burke went through the course in 40.6 seconds in the semifinals, edging out Jackson and Dragic’s time of 42.3.
Both teams slowed in the finals, with Burke finishing just in the nick of time to give the Western Conference the win by 0.1 seconds. Carter-Williams and Oladipo’s time in the finals was 45.3, while Burke and Lillard ended at 45.2.
NBA Cares and State Farm made a joint donation of $500,000 as part of the competition, with $100,000 going to the winning conference’s charities and $25,000 going to the charities of the runner-up. The Eastern Conference played for the American Heart Association and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, while the Western Conference was competing for Teach for America and the Wounded Warrior Project.
At 6-foot-10, Antetokounmpo became the tallest player to ever participate in the Skills Challenge, and Heat star LeBron James is the only other non-guard to take part in the event. The Greek forward became Milwaukee’s second ever participant, joining Brandon Jennings (2010).