LOS ANGELES — After two straight years of big men winning the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Spencer Dinwiddie got one for the guards.
The Brooklyn Nets guard continued his breakout season by besting Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen in the final round of the first event of All-Star Saturday Night to take home the 2018 Skills Challenge crown.
In the Skills Challenge, two players compete simultaneously on an identical obstacle course, which features tests of players’ dribbling, passing, agility and 3-point shooting. The fastest finisher reaches the next round. In the first round, the eight players will participate in four head-to-head competitions, with the four big men on one side of the bracket and the four “smalls” on the other. The four winners advance to the second round, where two more head-to-head showdowns determine the two finalists.
Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid kicked off the competition by coming from behind to eliminate Boston Celtics center Al Horford, swishing a 3-pointer before Horford could make his.
Next up, Markkanen made quick work of Andre Drummond — a late addition to the event, after defending champion Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks was sidelined by a torn left ACL — by hitting his 3 on the first try to vanquish the Detroit Pistons big man.
Dinwiddie opened the competition by eliminating Sacramento Kings guard and Rising Stars Challenge standout Buddy Hield.
Fellow Team World star Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets bumped off hometown hero Lou Williams of the Los Angeles Clippers.
In Round 2, Markkanen and Embiid were neck-and-neck throughout the competition, dunking at nearly the exact same time heading into the back half of the course. The rookie pulled a veteran move, though, cutting in front of Embiid moving from left to right as they moved down the court. He got to the 3-point line first and hit his first try, sending Embiid back to the locker room, presumably to attend to the tag on his shorts.
In the guards side of the bracket, Dinwiddie came from behind again to eliminate Murray, setting up an all-Eastern Conference final round.
After two smooth performances in the preliminary rounds, Markkanen stumbled early in the championship round, spotting Dinwiddie a big head start and digging a hole out of which he could not climb. Dinwiddie took advantage, with the Woodland Hills, Calif., native cruising home to a victory in front of a hometown crowd.
“It’s big for me to even be at All-Star Weekend, considering the road that’s been in my career, very up and down,” Dinwiddie said after the event. “Obviously being in the G League both on assignment and as a G League player, thank you to the Brooklyn Nets for giving me this opportunity to play and be here. Then it all really feels and seems full circle, because I got to come home and do it in front of my family.”
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