The Latest: Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. wins slam dunk contest
CHICAGO (AP) — The Latest on Saturday night at NBA All-Star weekend. (all times local):
Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. celebrated his 23rd birthday by winning the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest, edging Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon in a memorable showdown that required two tiebreaker jams.
Jones and Gordon each got a perfect 50 on both of their dunks in the final. Then they got two more perfect scores on their first jam in the dunk-off.
Jones then took off from just inside the foul line and threw down a windmill jam with his left hand, drawing a 48 from the panel of five judges.
After a short discussion with Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, Gordon brought out 7-foot-5 Boston Celtics rookie Tacko Fall and positioned him near the basket. He then took the ball from Fall’s hands on his way to a thunderous dunk.
The United Center gasped as the courtside NBA stars celebrated. But Gordon was awarded a 47, giving the victory to Jones.
Gordon also lost a memorable dunk contest to Zach LaVine in 2016.
Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield made a late surge to win the NBA 3-Point Contest.
Hield nailed a two-point money ball from the corner to finish with 27 points, edging Phoenix Suns All-Star Devin Booker by one in the final round.
Hield is one of the few bright spots for struggling Sacramento, averaging 20.4 points while shooting about 39 percent from 3-point range.
Washington’s Davis Bertans opened the second and final round with a 22, before Booker eliminated him.
Defending champion Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago’s Zach LaVine were eliminated after they failed to crack the top three in the first round.
Five racks with five balls each were set up around the perimeter — two in the corner, two on the wings and one up top. Four of those racks had four balls worth one point each plus a multi-colored two-point ball. The other had nothing but moneyballs.
There were also two green balls worth three points set up six feet behind the 3-point line.
Miami’s Bam Adebayo has won the All-Star skills challenge.
Adebayo narrowly defeated Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis in the final in a matchup of All-Star big men. He shared a hug with former Heat star Dwyane Wade after accepting the trophy.
Adebayo eliminated 2018 champion Spencer Dinwiddie and Raptors star Pascal Siakam in the first two rounds on the obstacle course. Sabonis advanced with victories over defending champion Jayson Tatum and Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton.
The 22-year-old Adebayo is in the middle of a breakout season, averaging 15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 54 games for the Heat.
The NBA has renamed its All-Star Game MVP award in honor of Kobe Bryant.
Commissioner Adam Silver announced the move on Saturday. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed when their helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain near Los Angeles on Jan. 26.
Bryant became the youngest player to ever play in an All-Star Game when he made his debut in 1998 at age 19. He made the All-Star team 18 times during his stellar career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning the MVP award a record-tying four times.
Silver says Bryant “is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game.”
Toronto Raptors and All-Star coach Nick Nurse was in Las Vegas last summer when he got the news that Kawhi Leonard was leaving the defending champions after just one season to join the Los Angeles Clippers.
Soon after, Nurse headed down to the hotel lobby and ran into two of his players, Pascal Siakam and Fred Van Vleet.
“I thought the guys might need some cheering up, so I said, ’Hey, look at it this way: Kawhi leaving means we just freed up something like 20 shots per game,” Nurse said.
It was 18.8 per game to be precise, but who’s counting? Well, plenty of Leonard’s former teammates, apparently.
“Siakam immediately starts doing this,” Nurse laughed, swinging his right arm in widening circles, like a baseball pitcher loosening up before entering a game. “And Van Vleet just breaks into a crazy grin.”
Small wonder. Those two became the biggest beneficiaries of Leonard’s departure. Siakam is averaging 7.3 more shots and 6.6 more points per game at the break; Van Vleet, 5.3 and 7, respectively. The remainder of Leonard’s shots were scooped up by Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby.
Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard is grateful for the All-Star break.
He had to pull out of the All-Star Game and Saturday night’s 3-point competition after he strained his groin during Wednesday night’s 111-104 loss to Memphis. He was replaced by Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker.
Lillard is averaging 29.5 points and 7.9 assists.
“Tough injury,” he said during Saturday’s All-Star media session. “Came at a tough time. Fortunate for me, that game was on the 12th, we don’t play again until the 21st. So that’s at least nine days of being able to see where I am, get some treatment, do some rehab and go from there.”
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